Having a full medical appointment calendar where your doctor and nurse practitioner are fully booked is good. Having a high no-show rate is not.
We determine a no-show patient as one who has confirmed an appointment but does not arrive. While the reasons for not keeping an appointment are personal to each individual, it creates a ripple effect on the clinic and its patients. Each missed appointment is a missed opportunity for the clinic to see another patient in need. It could also be detrimental to the no-show patient. Regular checkups are crucial to preventive care and early detection of health issues.
In short, it’s a critical issue to clinics, the patient, and other patients who couldn’t book an appointment during that time slot.
Every clinic deals with this issue, and our clinic is no exception.
Help for this challenge came to us at Mercy and Truth Medical Missions in the form of an applicant defined grant last summer from Health Forward.
With this grant we have been able to hire someone to make reminder calls to our patients about their appointments, and with the new phone system, when a message is left, the patient can immediately redial the listed number to connect with the appropriate clinic.
“Our former phone system at the time was so antiquated that the manufacturer said we could not update it any more,” said Geofrey Kigenyi, executive director. “With this new phone system, we are able to do so much more and be so much more productive.”
With our new phone system and these other resources, I’m happy to report that our no-show rate has started to decrease. As we reduce our no-show rate, we correspondingly decrease the number of unused appointments, increase the opportunity for preventive care, and move toward sustainability.
There are obviously numbers and outcomes to report on for each grant, but included in each and every number is a story. I’d like to share one of the stories our scheduler experienced: a female patient had come into our clinic as a part of the Early Detection Works program and had qualified for a free Pap smear.
The results of the Pap smear came back with abnormalities, so the scheduler called the patient to make an appointment for a colposcopy. The patient confirmed, but unfortunately did not show up.
The scheduler called her to reschedule. They set a new date, again it was confirmed, and again she did not show.
It was the third time that our scheduler contacted this patient that she admitted she just didn’t have the money for this visit, and that was why she kept missing her appointment.
Now that we know her “why,” we can work on the “what” will it take to get her in our clinic. One by one, little by little, day by day, we are working to change health outcomes. And, sometimes it starts with a phone call. Thanks to Health Forward funding, we can have that phone call.
If your clinic is experiencing no-show rates higher than you would like, we’d love to brainstorm ideas with you. It’s a common problem, and there’s not just one solution. But collaborating and working together is a start.
By Anne F. Rauth, MBA on March 5, 2018
Marketing and Development Director
Mercy and Truth Medical Missions