The high costs of no-show appointments

Doctors and their staffs spend a lot of time, effort, and expense to ensure that those who visit their offices get courteous, quality, and comprehensive care. When a patient doesn’t arrive – for whatever reason –it’s a disappointment all the way around.

Not only are these missed visits inconvenient, inconsiderate, and problematic, but the high cost of no-show appointments to physicians, their practices, and their patients is evidenced in reduced revenue, disrupted offices, and potentially missed care.


Missed Appointment Costs

The most immediate and obvious cost of no-show appointments is the missed revenue to the practice. One of the main reasons offices take appointments is to regulate and evaluate the staffing, resources, flow, and success of the practice. When people make appointments and don’t keep them, profitability suffers. And like it or not, a doctor’s office is a business.

Shawn McKee, a seasoned writer covering the health care industry, states in his online article,“Measuring the Cost of Patient No-Shows,” that some estimates show missed appointments cost single physicians as much as $150,000 annually. For a multi-physician office, those numbers are even more alarming. One clinic he researched documented 14,000 no-shows in a single year with an estimated loss of over a million dollars.

No-shows mean no revenue.


Practice Costs

A not-so-obvious cost of no-show appointments occurs within the practice itself. Not only are additional expenses and time needed to reschedule appointments, but there are the added issues of delays and increased staff and patient frustration. Like the effect of an accident on a busy highway at rush hour, everything gets backed up and no one is happy about it.

In his February 12, 2005, online article, “Managing the Habitual No-Show Patient,” Dr. Tito Izard, family doctor and former medical director of the Aurora Sinai Family Care Center in Milwaukee, put it this way, “The staff then struggles to balance patient flow and flaring tempers. The physician has two patients every 15 minutes. Patients who arrive on time are treated like an imposition. The potential for staff frustration and patient dissatisfaction is enormous.”

No-shows mean decreased efficiency.


Patient Costs

Perhaps the most overlooked and most damaging cost of no-show appointments is felt by thepatients themselves. In most cases, there was a legitimate reason for the visit: a check-up, an ache or pain, or a medical concern. Regardless of the reason that the appointment was missed, the patient didn’t get the care they needed.

The Wall Street Journal cited a study, which tracked nearly 7,000 primary-care patients age 65 or older, and discovered that only 71 percent were ever scheduled for a needed follow-up appointment. Of those, 70 percent were actually seen at the specialist’s office, meaning that just 50 percent received the treatment that their primary-care doctor intended them to have.

No-shows mean missed care.

To eliminate the high costs of no-show appointments, it is helpful to understand who is affected by the absence and at what expense. Pay attention and develop a plan to deal with missed appointments and you’ll increase office revenue, staff efficiency and morale, and patient care. Neglect them and everyone ends up getting sick.