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Whether you write everything down in a daily planner or simply keep a mental list, chances are you’re going to forget an event or miss an appointment. Maybe your child had an extra soccer game thrown into the schedule, or perhaps you had to work late on a last-minute project. 

For medical groups and other healthcare providers, patient no-shows are part of the business. Studies have found that in outpatient settings, no-show rates range from roughly 23% to 33%. And, more than half of medical groups reported that their no-show rate has increased over the past couple of years. On a monthly basis, medical groups average 80 established patients who do not show and 43 new patients who do the same.  

How do you calculate your medical group’s no-show rate? Just divide the number of no-shows by your total number of weekly appointments. Then, you can see how you measure against the average no-show rates for some of the most common healthcare specialties:

  • Primary Care: 19%
  • OB/GYN: 18%
  • Pediatrics: 30%
  • Dermatology: 30%
  • Ophthalmology: 22%
  • Neurology: 26%
  • Oncology: 25%
  • Endocrinology: 14%
  • Sleep clinics: 39%

Common Reasons for No-Shows

Patients no-show for a variety of reasons, such as a long wait time between the actual and scheduled appointment, transportation difficulties, inadequate insurance coverage, and language barriers. Some can’t afford the cost of care, while others simply just forget. A lot of patients don’t show up to a scheduled visit with their healthcare provider when they don’t get an appointment confirmation or reminder. 

The Costly Repercussions of No-Shows and Cancellations 

No matter the cause of the no-show or cancellation, they typically result in decreased practice efficiency, lost time, lower patient satisfaction, and added stress on staff. Let’s not forget the negative effect on productivity. For a doctor working an eight-hour shift full of 20-minute reserved appointments, three unfilled cancellations cause a productivity decline of 12.5%

There is, of course, a loss of revenue any time a patient either does not show up or cancels his or her appointment with little notice. Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually — and about $150,000 for solo physician practices. To put that in another perspective, no-shows consume — on average — 14% of a medical group’s daily revenue. 

Having patients no-show or cancel isn’t typically a one-time thing, either. Patients who failed to keep just one appointment with their primary care physician are 70% more likely not to return within 18 months. The attrition rate for patients with chronic disease doubles with just one missed appointment

In some cases, not showing up to or canceling an appointment most affects a patient by delaying care. Preventive services and screenings aren’t delivered in a timely manner, medication efficacy isn’t regularly monitored, and acute illnesses are more likely to go untreated. The advantages of continuity of care are no longer achieved. The result? Poorer health outcomes. 

Recommendations for Reducing No-Shows 

Patient no-shows and cancellations are sometimes unavoidable. You’re never going to have a zero no-show rate. You can, however, proactively take steps to decrease your overall no-show and cancellation numbers. 

For example, if a patient misses his or her appointment, follow up to see why they didn’t come, and offer to reschedule. Consider offering telehealth appointments to combat transportation issues or similar barriers to access to care.

If you don’t want your practice to lose revenue, though, and retain existing patients, make an effort to address the no-show issue. Medical groups actively working to minimize no-shows have the potential to reduce them by up to 70 percent 

Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, manually contacting patients to remind them of an upcoming appointment is time-consuming. It also is not an easily scalable process, not to mention the fact that it does little to minimize no-shows and cancellations. 

Digital health solutions utilized to remind patients of an upcoming appointment help mitigate no-shows. They also provide patients with instructions for checking in before their visit, adding another layer of engagement to decrease the number of no-shows and cancellations. In fact, studies have found that no-shows are reduced by 29 percent when a patient self-scheduling tool is used.  

If your medical group has trouble filling last-minute cancellation appointments, another option is using patient online scheduling tools. They provide real-time access to your physicians’ schedules, enabling patients to take advantage of these newly available appointment slots. That’s less missed revenue for your practice.   

Once a patient has made an appointment, encourage that individual to fill out demographic and insurance information in advance. Digital check-in not only ensures patient data is more accurate and up-to-date, but it also fosters patient engagement. 

Such digital tools allow patients to communicate with your medical group using their preferred method of communication. Check out our end-to-end patient access and engagement offerings to learn more!