This is the second article in our two-part Patient Communication series. Links to the other articles are at the bottom of this page.
Patient no-share rates have soared to nearly 20% throughout the medical industry. A missed appointment is frustrating for you and the patient, who will need to reschedule their visit. Patient no-shows or last-minute canceled appointments can also hurt your bottom line and affect the quality of care you and your team can provide.
That’s why countless offices have begun to adopt a patient no-show appointment policy. A patient no-show policy helps ensure that the patient attends their scheduled appointment. Each office has its own rules, but many have adopted a mandatory 24-hour cancellation policy, a standard cancellation fee, patient appointment reminders, or other patient engagement tactics to minimize the number of missed appointments.
To ensure that a missed appointment doesn’t throw off your schedule, impact your care offerings, or frustrate your team, our staff at Weave, an all-in-one patient communication management platform, created the ultimate guide to patient no-show policy creation, cancellation terms, and more.
No-Show and Cancellation Policies that Won’t Scare Your Patients
We know that creating no-show cancellation policies that patients deem fair isn’t easy. Without a clear policy, though, you could experience the effects of chronic no-shows, or patients that routinely miss appointments without notice after receiving a 24-hour reminder notification.
Even a few chronic no-show patients can impact your profits and service. Fortunately, you can create a comprehensive policy that works for your practice and won’t scare your clients. To do so, consider options such as:
- Fee-based policies: Fee-based policies are some of the most common guidelines used to combat no-shows. If patients don’t arrive at their appointments within 15 minutes of the scheduled time or cancel at least 24-hours in advance, they will receive a charge to their Medicare or private insurance policy.
- Patient reward policies: Rather than charging patients for missing an appointment, your practice can reward them for attending their scheduled healthcare appointments on time. Many practices enter their patients into a weekly drawing for gift cards or other types of rewards.
- Fee erasure policies: You can use a fee erasure policy in one of two ways. First, you can charge your clients a fee when they make the appointment, which you then “erase” by subtracting it from their final balance. Alternatively, you can charge a fee following a no-show, then remove the charge after the patient reschedules their appointment and arrives on time.
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Providing Resourceful Info for Patients to Minimize No-Shows
After creating your policy, the next step is to provide resourceful info to patients, especially those on your chronic no-show list. Your patients are likely familiar with no-show policies from mental health providers, primary care physicians, and pediatrician offices. In fact, these policies are usually found in patient-centered care facilities to ensure that staff members can provide their patients with the best, most consistent health care possible.
With that said, include the following when sharing no-show policy information with patients:
1. Your no-show or cancellation fee policy: Your office should have a set cancellation timeframe, backed by a clearly stated fee policy to keep your patients on the same page. You should display your policy during online bookings and convey it clearly during in-office scheduling to prevent any miscommunication.
2. The types of automatic reminders your office will send: Helping patients remember their health care appointments can significantly reduce the number of no-shows. Let your patients know that you will contact them in advance via phone, email, or text message.
3. Your no-show probation timeframe: Some offices adopt a no-show probation period. During this period of days or weeks, patients can’t book another appointment.
4. How your patients can get off the chronic no-show list for future appointments: Finally, let your patients know how they can get off the chronic no-show list for health care appointments. They may do so by attending a meeting and learning more about the importance of regular health care, paying a fee, or arriving on time at their next appointment. If they fail to do so, you may block or limit their ability to book further appointments.
Lastly, remember that your patients may miss appointments for several reasons. Some simply forget while others do so due to mental illness, family emergencies, or uncontrollable circumstances. With that in mind, you may consider incorporating a “free pass” for patients who aren’t on your chronic no-show list.
What to Include in a No-Show Appointment Policy
A no-show policy should clearly list the fees that the patients will incur if they fail to show up at their appointment. You may choose to add a late cancellation fee, or one that applies if the patient cancels within 24-hours of their appointment, as well. Your policy regarding patient no-shows may also include information and requirements such as:
- Any vaccine requirements your patients must comply with to attend an appointment
- How a missed appointment can impact long-term care
- What happens when a patient misses three or more scheduled appointments
Have each patient sign the template policy, then store it in their medical record for future reference.
Why You Should Have a No-Show Fee Policy Template and a No-Show Policy Template
Implementing a no-show fee policy template helps keep you, your patients, and your team on the same page. By providing each patient with a copy of your no-show and cancellation policy, the client will know what to expect if they miss an appointment.
A no-show and cancellation policy may also reduce the number of last-minute cancellations you experience, especially if the patient wants to avoid a no-show fee on their credit card statement.
That said, it’s critical to communicate your cancellation policy, no-show rate, and late cancellation fee structure so that each patient has a full understanding of your office guidelines. To ensure clarity while writing a firm but kind no-show appointment letter, consider using a no-show fee policy template.
How to Write a Patient No-Show Letter
Creating a set procedure for canceled appointments or patient no-shows can feel challenging for healthcare organizations of all types. Luckily, you can streamline the process using our six-step checklist:
1. Communicate your cancellation window.
2. Set a late arrival policy.
3. Determine a missed appointment limit for no-show patients.
4. Clarify when and how often you will send appointment reminders for a scheduled appointment and if the patient can confirm, cancel, or request to reschedule their appointment through the reminder.
5. Communicate your practice’s patient-no-show policy.
6. Close your letter by reiterating the importance of a no-show procedure to ensure patient safety and optimal treatment at future appointments.
Finally, list your no-show policy online, at your practice, and with each reminder email to ensure that you and your team stay one step ahead of missed patient appointments.
Schedule a free demo with Weave to learn how you can reduce no-show appointments.
Read the Entire Marketing for Patient Communication series Series
- How To Reduce No-Show Appointments In Your Healthcare Practice
- How To Create A No-Show Appointment Policy
In the next article of this series, we discuss how to reduce no-show appointments at your medical practice.