CCD Health

How to reduce patient no-shows at medical centers

Measuring the cost of patient no-shows at your outpatient medical center is alarming. Learn how to reduce patient no-shows with these three tactics.


Medical companies lose billions of dollars each year due to missed appointments. Within radiology alone, patient no-shows average between 2.26% - 3.36%.

Even this marginal amount of missed appointments hurts your operations, leaving holes across your imaging center schedules that lead to costly resource downtime.

Your appointment scheduling process can significantly impact when and how patients show up to your facilities. And in the age of COVID-19, every interaction’s impact is amplified. Medical centers saw a significant drop in scheduling throughout 2020, uniquely impacting each imaging modality service.

Some imaging modalities, such as chest X-rays and CT scans, are commonly used for diagnosing and managing COVID-19 patients. Still, modalities like mammography have seen significant drops in scheduling and patient volumes since the beginning of COVID-19. 

Even when 100% of your patients attend their scheduled appointments, your outpatient imaging organization must ensure that you’re fully utilizing your equipment and employees. 

Inefficient use of healthcare facilities and resources can severely impact your profitability and business outcomes due to improper scheduling, especially given the high patient no-show rates pervasive in the radiology industry. 

Measuring the cost of patient no-shows at outpatient medical centers

Your patients and staff live busy lives. Amidst managing personal and professional responsibilities, meetings, and reservations, medical appointments are often missed or forgotten. Still, this impact is costly and wasteful for outpatient imaging centers across the healthcare industry. 

In healthcare, patient no-shows and missed medical appointments without prior notice are prevalent. As Patient Care and medical centers’ efficiency increases, it’s essential to understand the explicit and implicit impact of missed patient appointments. 

When a patient misses a medical appointment, three core elements of a medical center are impacted: 

  • revenue is left uncaptured
  • resources and staff are underutilized 
  • patients receive delayed care

In fact, one 2017 study found that no-shows cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year, and individual physicians an average of $200 for every 60-minute appointment.

Year after year, that stacks up to an unimaginable amount of lost revenue. 

Yet as machine learning, analytics and technology continue to develop, it’s hard to believe that such an expensive problem persists. Because of this, the team at CCD developed and deployed a three-stage research plan to identify and prevent patient no-shows for healthcare providers and outpatient imaging centers.  

The leading indicator of patient no-shows: previous no-show history

CCD’s advanced analytics department found that a patient with at least one no-show in the 12 months leading to the appointment was 15 times more likely to miss appointments than patients with no previous no-show.

Appointment lead time, modality, and insurance type were amongst the predictive factors causing missed appointments. Still, a majority (63%) of the model’s predictive power came from knowing a patient’s previous no-show history. 

Armed with these insights, we built a predictive algorithm that was 90% accurate with a sensitivity of 75% for predicting appointment no-shows. With this, your outpatient medical center and CCD can mitigate the risk of patient no-shows and increase your productivity and profits with intelligent, optimized scheduling operations—all to drive an improved Patient Experience, lower asset downtime, and the most productive schedules possible. 

Three medical appointment scheduling tactics to lower patient no-show rates

Contact centers and outpatient medical centers can utilize the analytics model scores three different ways to minimize patient no-shows and resource downtime: confirmation campaigns, strategic scheduling and eliminating friction along your patient care. 

1. Identify target appointments with confirmation campaigns 

Patients that are identified as ‘highly likely to miss their appointments should receive a confirmation call from your contact representatives three days before their scheduled appointment. This gives the medical center 72 hours to fill the available spot and increase equipment utilization rates if the patient cancels or re-schedules the appointment. 

To take this a step further, patients should receive additional reminders before their appointments through automated: 

  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Phone calls

Establishing a multi-channel communication system is essential to provide a fast, streamlined experience for patients to book and keep appointments. 

2. Eliminate difficulty and delays in Patient Care

Many healthcare centers struggle to deliver a satisfactory level of Patient Care, experiencing: 

  • Dropped, declined, or missed calls 
  • Inability to resolve issues within one call
  • Long waiting time in call queues

These problems can impact a patient’s ability to schedule, reschedule or cancel appointments with enough time to optimize schedules. 

Additional friction along the patient scheduling or cancellation process will discourage patients from reaching out to reschedule or cancel appointments. Because of this, having a well-trained and professional point of contact at your healthcare facility is essential to providing a positive Patient Experience. 

To eliminate delays and challenges in your Patient Care, your outpatient medical center should give your contact team the right resources and bandwidth to appropriately address each caller’s needs. Still, many imaging centers only allocate one or two staff members for patient communications and struggle to find imaging contact representatives that deliver exceptional levels of Patient Care. 

Instead of leaving your patient communications short-staffed and spread thin, your imaging center can leverage imaging support professionals backed by intelligent insights to: 

  • Ensure that 100% of your inbound patient calls are addressed to balance appointment location, procedure, and available slots 
  • Conduct all patient follow-ups and outbound calls to confirm and educate patients 
  • Provide your patients with any relevant instructions and information prior to their appointments 
  • Update attending physician statements (APS) to alleviate your employee workloads and give your staff time back
  • Manage patient record data entry, such as order intake and referring physician information 
  • Transcribe physician medical audio files in compliance with formatting and turnaround times 
  • Retrieve medical records and verify insurance for patients surrounding medical appointments

Your outpatient imaging center should address your patients’ needs before they even step foot in your imaging center. Whether your contact agents are in-house or outsourced, ensure that you’re delivering the best possible care to deliver the utmost Patient Experience, reduce your appointment cancellations and patient complaints, and increase your level of efficiency. 

3. Implement a strategic patient scheduling procedure

By identifying the appointment time slots with a high probability of patient no-shows, you can schedule additional patients during those appointment times to maximize your resource utilization and minimize patient waits. 

However, note that this scheduling strategy should only target timeslots with a 90% probability (or higher) of patient no-shows. By targeting the most at-risk timeslots, you’ll minimize potential discomfort for your other patients and ensure that you’re not overbooking for your resources. 

To take this one step further, your imaging center should develop and execute on patient scheduling best practices that assigns high-risk patients to appointments later in the business day. Scheduling your at-risk patients later makes the potential impact of a patient no-show less impactful to your staff efficiency levels, asset utilization, patient wait times, and operational workflow.  

Utilizing these processes at your outpatient imaging medical center won’t resolve 100% of your missed appointments. Still, it’s a critical step toward improvement that will lead to long-term revenue and resource optimization. 

how to improve patient no show rate

 

Lower your patient no-show rates with the right patient support systems

Medical centers used to resolve patient no-shows with traditional methods that involve a significant tradeoff between delivering satisfactory levels of Patient Care and maximizing business revenue. 

Based on the assumption that outpatient medical centers with an average no-show rate of 10% lose $200 for every missed 60-minute appointment, a 50% lower no-show rate will lead to savings of $2,200/month/doctor, or $26,400/year/doctor. 

In the big picture of your outpatient imaging center’s business operations, an outpatient center that employs 30 physicians could help save up to $792,000 every single year.

Now, there’s a better way to reduce missed appointments and still deliver exceptional Patient Care: 

  1. Execute appointment confirmation campaigns for high-risk appointments and patients 
  2. Eliminate delays in Patient Care with responsive, experienced contact representatives
  3. Develop and implement strategic scheduling to reduce patient wait times and increase staff efficiency

Outpatient medical centers no longer need to make the trade-off between supporting patients and driving operational efficiency.  

By looking at prior no-show history across patients, your outpatient medical center can effectively target and enact preventative strategies that lower your no-show rate, significantly reducing the guesswork and optimizing the continuous use of medical equipment. 

To learn more, watch our webinar on improving patient scheduling at your outpatient medical center.

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