Many outpatient therapy clinics struggle with cancellations and no-shows. Sources report that most clinics face a standard cancellation rate of 2%–4%. However, if your clinic is experiencing cancellations or no-shows on 12%–15% of appointments, your business may be in jeopardy. Regardless of your current situation, every clinic can take steps to help ensure more stable, reliable patient attendance at appointments. Here’s what may be causing your current rate of cancellations, and what you can do.
Factors that contribute to higher cancellation rates
It can help to review your appointment book to determine if there’s a common theme between the cancelled/no-show appointments. Also, you may want to review your appointment scheduling process with your front desk staff and therapists to identify possible snags. Consider the following:
- The time slot. Depending on the population your clinic serves, certain times of the day can be difficult. For example, if many of your clients rely on public transportation, appointments scheduled during early weekday mornings can be difficult due to morning-commute traffic.
- Lack of communication. Good communication is important to help a patient remember when his or her appointment is, and the reason why it’s important for good health and well-being.
- Long wait times. When patients spend a long time in the waiting room, they may feel your clinic does not value their time. This can be a factor in cancellations and no-shows.
- Limited accessibility. Is your location easy to find, with plenty of parking and hours that suit your patients’ needs? If your clinic is hard for patients to access, they may be less likely to keep appointments.
Reducing cancellations and no-shows: the role of your therapists
You can take steps to help improve patient attendance at appointments by engaging your therapists. It’s important that your therapy staff:
- Explains the importance of therapy to patients. During every session, it can help if therapists show patients how far they’ve come and explain how the physical therapy is helping.
- Creates progressive treatment plans. As patients are ready, therapists should adjust treatment plans to continue to challenge patients. Patients may get bored with a repetitive therapy plan and attempt to practice their therapy on their own at home.
- Spends quality time with patients. Therapy sessions that are one-on-one allow patients the benefit of full, undivided attention from their therapist. This provides extra value to patients and keeps them coming back for more therapy.
Other proven ways to reduce cancellations
Aside from your therapists, you and your front desk staff can:
- Create and reinforce a cancellation/no-show policy. It may help to charge a small fee—such as $25—if patients fail to show up, or cancel appointments with less than 24 notice. Have your front desk staff explain the cancellation/no-show fee to patients when they first book appointments.
- Communicate wait time to patients. A little wait time before appointments can be inevitable. However, it helps to manage patient’s expectations. Post a sign in your waiting room that advises patients to check in with the front desk staff if they have been waiting at least 15 minutes. That way, staff can provide an update on wait time, or the patient will have the opportunity to reschedule the appointment.
- Remind patients by phone or email. Your front desk staff should check with patients when they make an appointment to determine if it’s easier to reach them by phone or email. Then, staff should conduct reminders 24 to 48 hours before the patient’s scheduled appointment.
- Issue wallet-sized appointment cards. Front desk staff should always write the patient’s appointment on the back of a specially printed business card. The card should include your clinic’s address and phone number.
- Work with patients to schedule within workable time slots. It’s also important for front-desk staff to help provide patients with time slots they can accommodate. Rather than telling a patient when his or her next appointment is, staff should ask what time of day works best and proceed from there.
The success of your clinic comes from the inside
By working with your front-desk and therapy staff, you can develop the policies and processes that will help to reduce your cancellation and no-show rates. This will help your clinic maintain a fuller book of appointments and higher productivity.
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