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How to Decrease Patient “No-Shows”

Feb 10, 2023 10:19:00 AM • Written by: APX Platform

Patient “No Shows” are one of the most frustrating challenges aesthetic practices face. They affect both your time, efficiency, and financial bottom line. Tracking and being proactive in solving the “no-show” challenge is critical to practice success.

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, the average no-show rate for healthcare practices across all specialties is nearly 18-20% and the total cost of missed healthcare appointments in the United States each year is more than $150 billion.

To quickly calculate your patient no-show rate, divide the number of no-shows per week by your total number of weekly appointments. For example, if you see an average of 100 patients per week and 20 of them are no-shows, your no-show rate would be 20%.

While not every no-show or cancellation can be avoided, clear patient communication can significantly reduce your no-show rate. 

Here are 10 tips to combat no-shows:

1. Charge for consultations.

Charging a consultation fee often reduces the consultation no-show rate to 0 and reduces cancellations. Clients often say they don’t charge consultation fees, and our team always responds with “Why not?”  

Ask yourself, “What is my time, education, and expertise worth? Then, consider your overhead costs (rent, marketing, payroll, taxes, Cost of Goods, training, benefits, equipment, warranties, etc.) You’ll quickly realize that your time is very valuable and there are many costs to be factored into each appointment and running a profitable business 

When you offer free consultations, you attract a higher percentage of price shoppers or unmotivated buyers. There is no accountability for the patient to show up, which devalues your time, lowers your Patient Acquisition Rate, and results in a lower conversion rate to a paid appointment for a treatment, service, or procedure. When you charge a consultation fee, you increase the likelihood of attracting more quality, serious patients who already perceive value for your time and expertise and are willing to invest in themselves. You also minimize your cancellation and no-show rate, while increasing your conversion rate. You can apply the consultation fee towards the surgery or treatment the patient books.

2. Establish an SOP

As part of your practice operations, you’ll want to establish a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) around confirming appointments and consultations as well as a cancellation and no-show policy. Post your policies in a place where your patients can easily see them and have a copy by the front desk. Specifically address the time frame for running late that will trigger a cancellation, how much notice you require to cancel an appointment, and any charge for no-shows. Your front desk team must explain this policy when they are booking the appointment and make sure it is included in any correspondence regarding booking and confirming, as well as written on your website or brochures. 

If you are going to charge for a no-show, make it enough of a charge that it will deter people from not showing up. 

3. Use automatic reminders

Create a cadence of three separate automatic reminders confirming appointments that contain the day/time of the appointment. Using an SMS text sequence that includes options for confirming or changing the day/time with a one-touch message is very effective. SMS text communication has a higher read rate than email reminders. There are many software options on the market to help with SMS reminders. We recommend you include one reminder call where the patient is required to confirm if possible. That way, if they cancel, you can offer it to someone on your waitlist.

As far as timing goes, for regular appointments set 3 times to confirm. Start with 3 days out, then 2 days, then 24-hours prior. Please state that you have called and sent email and text reminders and that to avoid the cancellation fee, it is required they confirm the appointment.

4. Send out explainer videos or testimonials.

Often patients cancel appointments or are no-shows due to fear. If you send out explainer videos in advance about the treatment/service/procedure of interest, before and after photos, and testimonials from other patients, your prospective patient immediately will feel a sense of relief that it won’t be “scary.” Using emojis (sparingly) in your reminder texts can help build a friendly rapport and is often less intimidating to prospective patients. 

5. Offer the option to prepay for appointments.

One strategy to avoid no-shows and cancellations is to ask if a patient would like to take care of payment in advance. Or anything over a certain amount (e.g., $1000) requires a deposit to hold the time slot.

6. Ask for a credit card in advance.

You can do this when a patient books an appointment in case of a last-minute cancellation or no-show, if it aligns with your policy. 

7. Respond to no-shows in a professional manner.

If a patient is a no-show, send out a missed appointment text or email asking them to reschedule. Give them the opportunity to explain why they missed the appointment before you jump to charge them. You’ll want to use your judgment as to whether it is a legitimate excuse or an emergency that arose. If it is an established, loyal patient, you may want to weigh out the lifetime value and decide regarding any no-show fees. Keep track of a patient’s no-show rate. If it happens more than once, you may consider suggesting they are not a good fit for your practice. 

8. Reach out if they are a few minutes late.

If a patient is a few minutes late and has not called, reach out to them with a phone call or text to see if they will be arriving soon. You can offer to reschedule if they are going to be so late that you won’t be able to accommodate them. 

9. Monitor your no-show rate.

This is a good KPI to track. You can incentivize your team by setting a goal to reduce no-shows by a certain percentage over a specified period. The reward can be a catered lunch, gift card, bonus, etc.

10. Value your patients’ time.

Everyone is super busy these days. If you are running behind and keep patients waiting for a long time in the waiting area, they are more likely to not show up or cancel future appointments. Respect their time as you want them to respect yours. One way to help reduce wait times is have them arrive 15 minutes early to complete paperwork or have them fill out paperwork in advance through a patient portal if you have one. 

To learn how APX can help your practice increase efficiency and profitability, schedule a discovery call with one of our consultants.

APX Platform

APX Platform is the world's first Practice Performance System. With a commitment to fostering growth and success for medical aesthetic practices, we bring unparalleled expertise to the forefront. Through our articles, our team of experts share valuable insights, tips, and industry knowledge that will elevate your practice to new heights. Stay tuned for the latest updates from APX Platform.