Patients missing appointments? Here’s why
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Patients missing appointments? Here’s why

A missed doctors’ appointment can cost a medical practice time, money and frustration, while severely impacting a patient’s continuity of care, so why are patients missing appointments and what can be done to curb the habit?

What is a patient no-show?

Missed appointments or no-shows are defined as patients who have neither kept nor cancelled their scheduled appointments.

What is the patient no-show rate?

Patient no-show rates are high – and it’s a global trend. A recent study by the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention, revealed rates of missed appointments were 5%-55% in the United States.

Meanwhile closer to home, recent regional data revealed that in Mackay-Whitsunday region alone, 14,451 appointments were missed in 2015-16 and an average of 1204 appointments a month were lost due to people failing to attend.

Why are patients missing appointments?

According to the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention report, the main reasons patients are missing appointments is because they simply forgot, did not know or had no reminder call (37.6%).

Other reasons for not showing up included:

  • A personal, work or unrelated issue
  • Transportation problems
  • Insurance problems
  • Too sick to attend
  • Not satisfied/negative emotions regarding the practice or doctor
  • Used another source of care
  • Thought the appointment was not essential

 What is the cost of a patient no-show?

 Patient no-shows cause disruption in the continuity of the provision of healthcare services, add to the dissatisfaction of patients due to delays in getting new appointments and hinder the detection and treatment of diseases.

Worryingly, the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention report also revealed that in the US, missed appointments cost the healthcare system more than $150 billion a year.

Meanwhile in the UK, the Independent reported that the British National Health Service no-shows cost the health service one billion pounds last year, and missed GP appointments cost up to 250,000 pounds a month.

In Australia, doctors on the Sunshine Coast even resorted to charging a $50 cancellation fee for curbing the rising costs of patient no-shows in the area, including recouping costs such as rent, staff salaries and the opportunity to book in another patient.

And according to the Australian Medical Association, if you miss a medical appointment you may be charged a cancellation fee, as long as there is a clear notice in the surgery notifying patients that such a fee may be charged if you fail to attend an appointment in compliance with the Office of Fair Trading.

How can I calculate the cost of a patient no-show in my practice?

Using a physiotherapy practice as an example, let’s say the average cost of an appointment is $60 and there are six therapists on duty on any one day. If each therapist has six appointments a day, then the business will treat 36 people. If we take the average no-show rate of one in five, then we can assume up to seven people may not attend their appointment. This may only be one to two people per therapist, but when you multiply it out over time, the results can be significantly detrimental.

Why? If you are a business operating six days a week with up to seven people failing to attend every day that averages out to approximately $120,000 per year. That’s before you even consider the impact this has on the time it takes to re-schedule, fill any last minute empty slots and turn away new patients due to what looks to be a full schedule at the start of the day.

How technology can help

So, what can be done to mitigate no-shows, help improve efficiencies, profitability, while also providing a better patient experience? Here’s where technology can help. From SMS reminders, online bookings, self-checkin kiosks, push notifications, email reminders and more, smarter use of online patient engagement tools can help boost scheduling efficiency, reduce patient no-shows and turn around a time-poor practice.

At MedicalDirector, our innovative clinical and practice management software integrates with a wide range of Marketplace partners, which offer a range of helpful reminder systems, online booking tools and recall features to help medical practices boost patient engagement and reduce no-shows.

These include:

Recalls and Reminders

  • MessageNet: An SMS service designed to improve the productivity and mobility of your practice, allowing clinicians to send SMS notifications for recalls and reminders.
  • MessageBird: A cloud communications platform with its own telecommunications carrier infrastructure, designed to simplify communication with patients via SMS.

Full suite of Patient Engagement Solutions

  • AutoMed:  Offers sophisticated online appointment bookings, caller ID and self-serve check-in kiosks with Medicare card readers and 100 languages to cater for changing demographics as well as auto billing.
  • HotDoc: Provides a full suite of software solutions, including online bookings, reminders, recalls, check-in kiosks, patient survey tools and other products, which are customisable and empower practices to better connect with patients.
  • MyHealth1st: Enables 24/7 real time appointment bookings online, as well as automatic recalls and reminders.

For more information on how your MedicalDirector software can integrate with our Marketplace partners to help reduce patient no-shows in your practice visit:


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