Why pry? 3 reasons to make follow-up calls for no-shows

The Medical Group Management Association reports that the average rate of no-show appointments nationally in the healthcare industry is around 5.5 percent. It further states that 63 percent of practices tracked missed appointments and cancellations. However, it also finds that only 46 percent of practices had policies to address this problem.

So there is a recognizable problem: practices know enough to track the problem, but only half of them do anything about it. One of the most effective ways to solve this issue is also the easiest: institute a policy of making follow-up calls for no-show appointments. Here’s why.


Follow-Up Calls Provide Needed Information

In his November 13, 2014, online article, “When Patients Don’t Follow Up,” Dr. Barron H. Lerner, professor of medicine and population health at New York University School of Medicine, said he once called a patient with hypertension who seemingly disappeared. He found out that the she had unexpectedly moved back to her native country in Africa, and he forwarded a message to her to continue to get treatment for her condition.

Making follow-up calls for no-show appointments not only uncovers vital patient information, but also allows patients the opportunity to communicate their compliments, cares, and concerns regarding your practice – all very helpful pieces of data as you work to improve your practice.


Follow-Up Calls Increase Accountability and Build Relationships

When you take the time, energy, and expense to follow up with your patients, you’re showing them that you not only value them as patients, but you also value their relationship. You’re saying they mean more to you than just a source of revenue.

In her book, Mastering Patient Flow, Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA, FACMPE, CPC, recommends keeping in constant contact with patients, including times when appointments were missed. She writes, “Ensure you are probing and then listening to your client’s needs and wants. Get your patients excited about and invested in their treatment plan. Progress—and praise of said progress—will only increase their commitment.”


Follow-Up Calls Facilitate Rescheduling

One of the most important reasons for making follow-calls for no-show appointments is to allow the patient to reschedule their visit. After all, more than likely, he still needs care.

When you have the patient on the phone, this is a chance not only to understand the reason for the initial no-show and get a better understanding of the patient’s character, but it’s also a way to talk him through the cares and concerns that might have contributed to the no-show. It’s also a way to reiterate the need for his visit, and explain to him the inconvenience that no-showing causes your practice.


Follow-Up Call Prioritization Makes Sense

As you are doing follow-up calls to patient no shows, remember that this isn’t accounting and you don’t have to adhere to a last-in, first-out (LIFO) or first-in, first-out (FIFO) process. Take a look at your pending follow-up visits. Which ones have the greatest medical urgency? Which ones have the greatest value for your business? Which visit types do you enjoy the most? Using this quick level of insight can help you and your patients significantly as you are going through this process.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the only problem. The greater problem is that you don’t understand the problem or have a solution for it. Having a procedure for making follow-up calls for no-show appointments can not only recognize a glaring issue in your office, but also help alleviate its likelihood in the future.