In the U.S., current no-show rates average around 18.8% between specialty and subspecialty clinics.
If you’re a primary care provider, you often see many more patients than subspecialty care, so the number of no-show patients to your clinic is actually much higher, even if the average percentage is the same. If you see 20 patients per day, and 18.8% no-show—that’s 4 of your patients per day who aren’t showing up for their appointment. That’s tens of thousands of dollars of revenue lost each month!
That loss is not par for the course. There are proven strategies you can use to reduce the number of no-show appointments at your practice.
What’s an acceptable no-show rate?
No-shows are a huge disruption to your front office workflow (and your revenue!) Research estimates the average no-show rate is 19% across specialties and subspecialties.
During the pandemic, no-show rates rose to as high as 80% in some areas.
Many primary care providers think 19% is too high—that’s 4 appointment slots out of your 20 appointment day! The cost of too many no-show patients can be found by calculating your cost per visit and your average no-show rate.
If your average cost per visit is $200, and you have 20 appointments to fill per day, you’re losing an average of $800 per week, $3,200 per month, or $38,400 per year (for a single provider!).
How to track no-show appointments
Tracking your no-show rate is important because it represents lost revenue for your office—it shows revenue you can recapture to improve your financial health, add more resources, or improve employee benefits.
Before you start fixing your no-show rate, you need to establish a baseline number to track progress against. Without a baseline, it’ll be impossible to track whether any of your efforts to reduce your no-show rate are truly working.
To calculate your no-show rate baseline, figure out how many appointments were scheduled within a given time (try the last 6 months), and then figure out how many patients did not show up for their appointment. Take your number of no-shows and divide it by your total number of scheduled appointments, and multiply it by 100.
If your no-show rate is consistent with the national average (19%), you run a 5-provider practice, and your average cost per visit is $200, no-show appointments cost your practice $192,000 per year.
What could your practice do with that extra $192,000? Would you be able to add more staff? Bring on new technology to streamline your workflows? Would you be able to be more competitive when it comes to retaining your current staff? Realizing the missed revenue from no-show appointments can unlock new opportunities for your medical practice to thrive!
Why do patients no-show for appointments?
Before you can begin improving your no-show rate, you need to understand why patients no-show for appointments.
- They forget. Almost 38% of no-show patients claim they forgot about the appointment. And it makes sense—patients are waiting an average of 24 days to see their primary care provider, from when they call to schedule to their actual appointment time. Text reminders allow patients to easily confirm and cancel appointments without burdening your front desk staff with additional phone calls.
- They can’t get through on the phones to reschedule last-minute. 16% of patients cite “personal reasons” for why they were a no-show. Patients are frustrated by phones—research shows they won’t wait on hold for longer than 1 minute. To fix this, allow your patients to cancel via text reminder. Even better, allow patients to cancel or reschedule their appointment online to reduce the number of no-show appointments.
- They don’t have the resources. 7% of no-show patients said they couldn’t get a ride to their appointment. We also know healthcare is expensive, and many patients miss their appointments because they can’t pay.
How to reduce no show patients
Many offices go straight to old strategies for no-show appointments—some of these strategies don’t work well. It’s so important to understand why patients are not showing up for their appointments so that your strategy for reducing no-shows doesn’t impact your patient experience or cause patient attrition. For example, if patients no-show because they can’t pay for the appointment, billing patients for no-show appointments will cause even more stress, negatively impact their experience with your office, and will make them seek care elsewhere.
Focus your no-show rate strategy on creating an appointment scheduling experience centered on convenience for the patient. To dramatically reduce no-shows, remove the middle man: phones.
It takes a patient 8 minutes to schedule their appointment via phone call. Your front desk staff will thank you too—they spend an average of 10 hours per week scheduling and confirming appointments via phone. It only takes patients 4.2 minutes to book an appointment on Solv. And your staff spends 0 of those 4.2 minutes booking that appointment!
Set up text appointment reminders
Automated appointment reminder texts are an easy way to nudge patients towards coming in for their scheduled appointment. Patients have busy lives, and they’re waiting 24 days between scheduling the appointment and actually coming into the office—some are bound to forget about their appointment!
Scheduling near-term appointments vs far out
No-show rates increase as the lead time to their appointment increases, so if you can provide an online schedule that allows patients to fill appointment slots within the same week—or even on the same day—you will dramatically reduce your no-show rate.
Make patient appointment scheduling more convenient
Patients want the ability to schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments online. Your online appointment scheduling software should allow the patient to review their insurance eligibility before scheduling, and will show the patient the cost of their appointment. Patients get the convenience they want from their healthcare experience, and your office has to do less manual work—it’s a win-win!
Schedule follow-up visits at checkout
Don’t rely on patients to call back in—they won't. Get your front desk staff in the habit of scheduling follow-up appointments while they’re still present in the office. And if you miss one patient on their way out, you’ve got your easy online appointment booking software your patient can use to schedule at their convenience.
Reducing your no-show rate can help recuperate tens of thousands of missed revenue per year. With new technology and online tools that are proven to reduce no-show rates (Solv’s average no-show rate is 3% in 2021), it doesn’t even have to be a big lift for your office or have a long lead-time to implement. You can start using strategies to reduce no-show appointments and use that additional revenue to improve employee benefits, bring on new staff, or improve quality of care at your office.