Anyone involved in running a medical practice is aware of the frustration which can result from last-minute cancellations, not to mention the financial consequences if cancellations become a frequent problem. Although patients who do cancel appointments are not aware of the impact they’re having on a medical practice, no-shows hurt a medical practice since that time slot loses the money it cost to acquire that patient’s appointment.
Industry insiders are well aware of the fact that last-minute cancellations are a huge problem in the business, especially when the rate of cancellations approaches the 7% figure. In the neighborhood of that threshold, a significant loss of revenue impacts almost any medical practice in question.
There really isn’t much of an issue with cancellations made well ahead of time, since those slots can usually be filled by other patients seeking care on that same day. But when cancellations happen on the day of an appointment, or even worse, an hour or two before, those timeslots simply cannot be filled, and this results in a revenue loss.
What Should You Do to Prevent No-Shows?
Some medical practices charge a significant fee for canceling an appointment, and in some cases, the charge for a last-minute cancellation is even higher than the co-pay for the appointment would have been. While this may act as something of a deterrent to last-minute cancellations, it still apparently doesn’t prevent them in any significant number, because most healthcare facilities still have to deal with the cancellation problem.
A better approach might be to consider using online appointment booking. There is no doubt that there is some cost associated with software purchase and set up expenditures, but real ROI can be derived from having online appointment booking software put in place on your medical website. When patients go online to look for available time slots on certain days, they are getting the absolute most current information about availability, and they can quickly take time slots which may have been canceled by other patients.
Patients who are canceling their appointments can do that online as well, which makes for much more efficient and current updating. Whenever any patient logs onto your website, they would see schedule information which is as close to real-time as possible, pending any updates which haven’t been applied yet. Having the ability to fill in at least some of those last-minute cancellations by immediately opening them up to others, can go a long way toward filling in unused timeslots and recovering potentially lost revenues.
Further Advantages of Online Appointment Booking
Apart from the economic aspect of using online appointment booking, there are other reasons that your medical practice should be making use of electronic scheduling. Industry experts estimate that by the end of 2019, roughly 66% of all healthcare organizations in this country will be offering online appointment scheduling, because survey after survey has shown that it’s what patients of today really want.
Almost 20% of patients surveyed about the subject said that they had booked an online appointment at least once during the past year, and another 42% said they gladly would have done so, if their medical provider had that kind of online capability. Since so many patients have expressed a desire to make their own appointments, by having greater visibility into their doctor’s calendar and schedule, this is one of the ways that the total patient experience can be improved.
Medical practices where this convenience is offered can actually gain a competitive advantage by making the service available to their patients. Having online appointment scheduling also reflects well on a healthcare organization, giving it the appearance of a modern, flexible healthcare provider, in sync with industry trends.
Reduced Strain on Your Practice’s Personnel
When the majority of appointments are booked online, it greatly diminishes the number of phone calls incoming to the reception desk, with a corresponding reduction in frustration levels, when many of those calls are for last-minute cancellations. Since many appointments are phoned in at hours other than normal office hours, all those phone messages have to be handled appropriately by office personnel, who can then update the master schedule.
At least some percentage of those off-hours callers would not have to make those calls online if appointment scheduling were available – they could just be canceled on the website. Many patients have also indicated a general dislike for having to call the doctor’s office, either to schedule an appointment or to make a cancellation, and would much prefer doing it themselves online.
In addition to all the reasons described above why online appointment scheduling should be adopted by your medical practice, it should be noted that demand for this service is there right now, and is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years. Most businesses which are successful, achieve that success by providing goods or services to consumers which they really want, and which add value to their customer experience. Implementing online appointment scheduling is one of those services that people really want, and it’s one your medical practice should consider.