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MGMA poll: Practice leaders say no-shows, availability are their top appointment challenges

By Chris Harrop
October 5, 2017
Body of Knowledge Domain(s): Patient-Centered Care

Patients not showing up for appointments and not being able to see all the patients who want to be seen rank as two of the top challenges medical practice leaders see with appointments, according to an Oct. 3 MGMA Stat poll.

About 44% of respondents said patient no-shows are the biggest challenge in their medical practice, followed by appointment availability (38%), unfilled slots (7%) and cancellations (6%). Another 5% cited other issues, including:

  • Managing the many different appointment types
  • Gathering all documentation and authorizations necessary before an appointment
  • Adjusting schedules based on provider preferences for appointment types
  • Handling referrals and the associated authorizations

A recent MGMA Research & Analysis report, Maximizing Patient Access and Scheduling, includes the findings of a June 2017 survey of patients in the United States, including reasons why patients miss their appointments (52.4% forgot to attend or cancel the appointment) and the ways patients say their practices can help them keep appointments, including reminders via email, text and phone call.

Notably, more than 41% of patients surveyed said they were unaware of their doctor’s no-show policy. As the report notes, “regardless of what your no-show policy looks like, it won’t benefit your practice if patients don’t know what it is.”

Nate Moore, CPA, MBA, FACMPE, MGMA member, president, Moore Solutions Inc., Centerville, Utah, wrote in the September issue of MGMA Connection magazine that appointment data for a medical group “can have a uniquely powerful role in learning from the past and planning for the future.”

Moore recommends practice leaders identify a list of problems that could affect a patient’s experience and then developing appointment data sets that can pinpoint potential trouble spots for future appointments — including patients with a significant no-show history, among others — and then address them prior to the appointment date.

“Airlines are lucky,” Moore writes. “Passengers purchase airfare in advance, and most tickets are nonrefundable if the passenger does not fly. Medical practices are not so fortunate. If a patient does not show for the appointment, that slot goes unfilled. Even if the practice has a monetary penalty for no-shows and the penalty is enforced, the appointment slot is still lost to other patients who may wait for weeks to see that provider.”

Learn more

  • Maximizing Patient Access and Scheduling, an MGMA Research & Analysis report, contains insights from recent surveys regarding patient appointments, examples of policies and procedures for handling no-shows and appointment confirmation strategies.
  • Moore shares more insights into how medical practices can leverage patient and appointment data to avoid lost revenue in his new book, Better Data, Better Decisions – the SQL: Business Intelligence for Medical Practices.
  • Patient Access: Tools and Strategies for the Medical Practice, by Elizabeth W. Woodcock, MBA, FACMPE, CPC, MGMA member, principal, Woodcock & Associates, Atlanta, and Deborah Walker Keegan, PhD, FACMPE, MGMA member, president, Medical Practice Dimensions Inc., Arden, N.C., addresses critical components of patient access and provides tools and resources to help manage it systemically in a medical practice. Check mgma.org/store for details.

Chris Harrop, senior editorial manager, Publications, MGMA

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