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Using multiple forms of communication to lower no-show rates

By Shannon Geis
March 9, 2017
Body of Knowledge Domain(s): Operations Management, Patient-Centered Care

Dealing with patients who don’t show up for their appointments can be frustrating for multiple reasons, including loss of revenue and gaps in scheduling. But there are things you can do to help minimize no-show rates, according to a number of MGMA members. 

This week’s MGMA Stat poll highlights the ways that medical practices connect with patients to prevent no-shows. Most respondents (52.23%) said that they sent multiple types of reminders to patients, and 29.79% said they called patients to remind them of their appointments. Of those who said they use multiple methods to remind patients, the majority called, texted and emailed patients. And most respondents said they sent reminders two days in advance of the appointment regardless of the reminder type, with a quarter responding that they sent reminders only one day in advance.

The poll was conducted on March 7, 2017 and had 1,279 responses.

According to a recent discussion on the MGMA Member Community, there are a number of factors to consider when trying to reduce no-show rates. One is how long it takes for a patient to get an appointment at your practice. “I found a high correlation between number of days [to get an appointment] and no shows. The longer it took for the patients see the doctor, the higher the no-show rate,” says Frank Cohen, MGMA member, director of analytics, Doctors Management LLC, Spring Hill, Fla.

You may also want to reevaluate your appointment notification system: How often are you sending out notifications? How far in advance of the appointment? What modes of communication are you using? 

“Be sure your practice management or scheduling system has the ability to contact patients to send reminders and confirm appointment. Whether the reminders occur by phone, text message or email, having different automated methods of reaching your patients will help decrease [no-shows] and even encourage patients to call in to schedule, so your practice's schedule is open for others,” says Maryann Davis, MGMA member, client executive, Revenue Cycle Operations, Dallas.

MGMA member Tanya Zucconi, vice president, professional services, SRG Technology, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., argues that live calls are better. “Maybe it makes sense, intuitively, or maybe not, but we studied it in the Boston area, and confirmed it. Then we built an application that supports the team making those calls, so they call only the patients at the highest risk,” says Zucconi. “The best part is, the outcomes-driven nature of the work makes both clinicians and administrators happy, and who doesn't like that ending?”

Regardless of how you contact your patients, MGMA member Jeffrey Rydburg, CMPE, says you should get confirmation from the patient, not just give them a reminder. “If we don't have contact information for a patient and don't try to contact them, our no-show rate is more than 10%. If we remind them of the appointment, the no-show rate drops to about 6%,” says Rydburg. “However, if we ask them to confirm the appointment (touchtone, click, etc.), the no-show rate drops to less than 3%. The point is don't just remind, confirm. It creates a psychological agreement between the patient and the practice.”

The MGMA 2016 Practice Operations Report examined the problem that medical groups have with patient no-shows. The no-show rate varied among specialties with most specialties reporting a median of 5% patient no-shows, but neurology and general surgery being higher with an 8% no-show rate.

MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management topics, the impact of new legislation, and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders.

Shannon Geis, Staff writer/editor, MGMA

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