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The true cost of patient no-shows

Patient no-shows can put a significant administrative, time and cashflow burden on any healthcare practice, yet it’s becoming all too common in today’s busy, fast-paced modern life for patients not to turn up to their appointments. In this article, MessageNet looks at the true cost of no-shows and how a simple three-pronged reminder strategy can boost booking efficiency and improve patient engagement.

It’s not uncommon for patients to forget their appointments, cancel at the very last minute or avoid turning up entirely. It may be their health has improved, they have double booked themselves or simply forgot, but how does an entire industry begin to combat patient no-shows and the irrevocable knock-on effect this has on cashflow and healthcare as a business?

The no-show trend is a problem affecting a growing number of industries. Last year, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Australian hospitality industry was hit with up to $75 million in cost due to patron no-shows. Restaurateurs went so far as to ban 3,000 patrons from their premises due to their failure to attend on multiple occasions.

In the UK, the Independent reported that the British National Health Service no-shows cost the health service one billion pounds last year. However, unlike restaurateurs, the public health services can’t ban patients with a track record for low attendance. So, what can be done to mitigate no-shows, help improve efficiencies, profitability, while also providing a better patient experience? Well the first step is understanding the true cost of patient no-shows.

Calculating the true cost of patient no-shows

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.

Now it’s your turn to do the math

Count the number of no-shows in your business from last month and average it out by day. Extrapolate that by week and then by month and ask yourself: is this an amount I’m willing to lose every year?

In order to counteract this no-show rate, we introduce two new reminder touchpoints. This includes sending one text message five days prior to the appointment and another reminder 24-hours ahead.

Research proves reminders work

In December 2017, the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government ran a study looking at the effective use of SMS. They discovered it took an average of 10.5 minutes to restore a cancelled payment. It also found a timely SMS reminder to pay on time, saved 240 hours of staff time per fortnight. Those 240 hours could then be re-allocated to assist others in need, lower the burden on phone services and improve overall service delivery for Australians.

This research has proved that reminders do help people recall and attend to an immediate deadline for an otherwise forgotten or postponed task. If you implement an automated SMS system, you will have regular touchpoints with those renowned for being late, or not showing up, and in turn provide availability to those in need, so they can make the most of an unexpected empty slot.

Three is the magic number

Through many years of research at MessageNet, we find our partners receive the best results when they send three key reminder messages: one message when the booking is made, a second five days prior to the appointment and the last 24 hours beforehand. And another great thing about these regular touch points is that you begin to build a relationship and trust with your patients, enhancing patient engagement and experience.

Once implemented, SMS is a simple, yet highly effective solution to automatic confirmations, rescheduling and cancellations, combatting no-shows within your healthcare practice. For more information, contact MessageNet to understand just how much you can be reducing your costs and ultimately putting your patient’s health first.

MessageNet is the preferred messaging platform for delivering a private and secure communication channel to over 10,000 health practices and hospitals in Australia. Choose MessageNet to improve patient attendance, automate staff rostering and create positive and productive interactions every day.

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