Medical appointments cancelled without notification are a serious problem for many public and private medical facilities. They have a negative impact on the work of the entire unit, both in financial and healthcare terms. The unused appointment is lost, and someone else could benefit from it. Despite this, there are still patients who do not keep appointments and give no notice. How can this be prevented? We have several proven ways.
Did you know that a patient, in accordance with the Act of 27 August 2004 on healthcare services financed from public funds (Poland), is obliged to inform their healthcare service provider of their intention to cancel a planned appointment or examination? However, many patients still forget to do this, or perhaps do not know that such an obligation exists.
Visits cancelled without notice have always happened, and will continue. If they don’t happen very often, this may not even be a problem. Nevertheless, if such cases become the rule, they deprive the facility of time and financial resources. Complete elimination of visits cancelled without notification is impossible, but it is always worth taking steps to keep them to a minimum.
Five ways to reduce appointments cancelled without notice
There are many reasons for patients failing to keep appointments – we could even say that there are as many reasons as patients. Regardless of the reason, the patient should remember to cancel the visit. The right approach by staff during patient registration, combined with intuitive technologies and tools, can help in this.
Confirm date and time
Remember to confirm the date and time of the visit verbally in the case of telephone registration. At the end of the conversation, repeat the information again, this time using an SMS containing the exact date, time and address of the facility. If the patient registers for an appointment in person, remember to write down the information about the visit on a piece of paper and give it to the patient as confirmation. Ask for notification from the patient if they change their mind about the appointment.
Remind by phone or SMS
It is worth reminding the patient about the visit a few days or one day before the visit (by phone or SMS). This gives the patient the opportunity to cancel the visit even at the last minute. Phone reminders are effective, albeit time and labor-intensive. Automatic SMS reminders, which are offered by systems for managing the schedule and office, may be better. We then obtain confirmation of the visit via a return SMS.
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Suggest near dates
Of course, this is not always possible, and sometimes the nearest date is in a month or two. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the more distant the proposed date, the greater the risk of cancellation. You can also suggest that the patient change the date for a closer one if an earlier appointment become available. This will allow you to fill gaps in the calendar and optimize the work of doctors.
Give patients the ability to make appointments online. Nowadays, everyone is looking for a way to make or cancel appointments quickly and efficiently. It is easier to do it yourself via the Internet. A dedicated application, a form on the website or a Patient Portal can have a positive impact on the decrease in the number of visits cancelled without notice.
Answer the phone
Don’t let patients who want to make an appointment by phone bounce off the voicemail. If the registration staff are unable to answer the phone when it rings, don’t forget to call back as soon as possible. A patient who has experience with a facility where telephone service is not at a satisfactory level will be reluctant to call for any purpose (including cancelling a visit).
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