Optometric Management Tip # 487   -   Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Reducing No Shows

No shows are one thing that can really get under the skin of an eye care provider (ECP); and rightfully so.  Not showing up for an appointment and not bothering to call is a blatant disregard for the ECP's time.  Considerable office resources are reserved for an eye appointment and it is a shame to waste it.  But rather than getting angry over it and rather than threatening to send a bill for a no show fee, let's develop a strategy that will reduce no shows and still maintain great customer service.

I'm sure most practices make some effort to contact patients before their appointments to remind them.  Your method may use your own staff to place phone calls, or you can also hire a service that will use live people or very clever automated voice systems to make the calls.  There are other services that will confirm appointments by email or texting.  I like these systems because it provides a quick way for the patient to respond by clicking within the message which sends a confirmation email back to your staff.  But most practices still have some patients who have not opted in for email and texting, so phone calls are still needed.

Even with these efforts, if your no show rate is still higher than you would like, let's change the confirmation process.  Here are some points to consider:

How much does a no show hurt?
It hurts quite a bit if you have long appointment slots that consist mostly of doctor time.  This is a good reason to move toward more delegation of clinical duties to staff members and converting to a faster pace.  A busy practice seeing patients every 15 minutes does not really feel a pinch with an occasional no show.  It is often a welcome catch-up event.  When that is the case, your staff can be very understanding when they contact the patient to let them know they missed the visit and to reschedule.  Your practice quickly gains a reputation of being very easy to work with and patients love you for it.  Tremendous patient loyalty occurs when your staff is nice to people who make a mistake.

I see nothing wrong with double booking a repeat no show offender, as long as your staff doesn't tell him he's double-booked.  Doing so would be an attempt to punish or teach a lesson, and I'm more interested in letting the patient win while preventing wasted office resources in the future.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management