Quit waiting around for no-shows

Quit waiting around for no-shows

You didn't go to college to thumb-twiddle, and you don't pay employees to stand around and dream about services they could be rendering. So use these 19 tips to cut back on no-shows and get back to business.
Jul 01, 2006

Illustration by Steve Pica
At first, the three extra minutes seem like a blessing—it's really a good thing Mrs. Unrilyable isn't there yet because you checked on another patient, updated a chart, and even got to use the restroom—thank goodness for that! But now that it's been 15 minutes, and your team members are sharing bad-break-up stories instead of helping you examine Fuzzy's back foot because Fuzzy never arrived, you're really starting to get mad. And not just at the jerk who dumped your technician—though that wasn't very nice. You're irritated because your time and money are going down the drain.

Good scenario: You have 15 appointments booked for Tuesday and you have three walk-ins, so you see 18. Not-so-good scenario: You have 15 appointments booked for Tuesday and three no-shows, so you see 12. That's revenue lost in overhead and services rendered. Costly? You bet.

No shows can grind away at your productivity if you don't get them under control. So find out who's not showing up and why, and then refresh your system so that you don't get stood up quite so often.

Identifying the culprits

Who are these disrespectful wasters of your time? Some clients forget because they booked their appointment far in advance and didn't write it down. Some are just too busy and overcommitted.

Better late than never?
"Most people really don't do it maliciously," says Dr. Mary Ann Vande Linde, a practice management consultant with VMC Inc. in Evergreen Colo. "They're trying to get their kids to soccer practice when they suddenly realize, 'Oh no, Princess was supposed to go to the doctor.'"

Of course, some really do wrong by you. For example, a price-shopper who calls multiple clinics and books appointments and then keeps the least expensive one. "We've been seeing more of that," says Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group, which owns and operates hospitals in Michigan.

Of course, no matter why clients don't show up for their appointments, your goal is to minimize the disruption. And generally different causes will demand a different response.

Start with 6 preventive tips

"Often a no-show starts long before the appointment time," says Dr. Vande Linde. So you can sometimes improve your odds of seeing that client by playing your cards right between the recommendation and the visit. Some opportunities:

1. Schedule smart. Of course, booking next-visits at the end of appointments seems to result in a higher compliance rate with recommended health care. The client's more likely to book that dental right after the doctor suggested it. And you don't really want to bank on her remembering to call you back and make that appointment sometime next week. However, end-of-visit scheduling techniques can leave clients with inconvenient appointment times that they're unlikely to keep. The solution: If a client doesn't have her schedule or calendar with her and is guessing about when would be a good time, offer to call her back that night when she's had a chance to go home, review the calendar, and check with her spouse about their availability. Then you can set a time that she's more likely to make.