Article

BUSINESS: THE CEO CHECKLIST

REDUCE PATIENT NO-SHOWS

How to avoid the frustration of open appointment slots

Action Steps

EXPLAIN WHY YOU WANT THE PATIENT TO RETURN

ASSESS YOUR RECALL SYSTEM

KEEP A WAITING LIST

DIRECT THE PATIENT ON WHAT TO DO

GET THE PATIENT’S COMMITMENT

Patient no-shows are a real source of frustration for all health care providers, including optometrists. The problem is often two-fold. Obviously, there’s this issue of the no-show itself. The other issue arises when the patient does not inform you that he won’t be able to make the appointment, at a time when you could have possibly filled his slot. Below are suggestions for addressing this.

EXPLAIN WHY YOU WANT THE PATIENT TO RETURN

While certain eye or medical conditions raise the importance of regular eye exams, I don’t think we have to limit these discussions to patients who have more serious conditions, such as diabetes and glaucoma. What about dry eye patients, allergy sufferers, those with a family history of eye disease, etc.? For many, the fact that it’s been 12 months since their last exam is not a compelling enough reason to return, especially if they are not experiencing any problems. Explain why you want them to return within a certain time frame. If you offer a compelling reason, people are more likely to remember that and take the appointment reminder seriously.

ASSESS YOUR RECALL SYSTEM

Are you still sending postcards or letters to remind patients of their upcoming appointments? I’m not knocking it. Maybe that works for most of your patient base, but do consider some of the more modern digital methods of sending appointment reminders. Many of these recall systems allow you to send multiple reminders that allow patients to easily confirm the appointment. This saves staff time and you mailing costs. If the patient does not respond to your multiple reminders and/or phone calls, consider opening the patient’s slot to avoid an empty chair.

KEEP A WAITING LIST

For patient’s who can’t be seen at their preferred day or time, keep their information on a waiting list of people to be called when another patient cancels or reschedules an appointment.

DIRECT THE PATIENT ON WHAT TO DO

Don’t assume that patients know what you want them to do if they can’t make the appointment. When your staff is confirming appointments, are they instructing the patent to call your office to notify them if they have to cancel? When I ask O.D.s to observe this, they often report back that the staff is not doing this.

GET THE PATIENT’S COMMITMENT

Instead of directing the patient to call if they need to cancel or reschedule, ask the person to call you. For example, “Ms. Smith, we have you scheduled next Tuesday at 3 p.m. Would you do us a favor and call if anything comes up and you need to reschedule?” Wait for them to say “Yes.” This sounds like a trivial point, but research has shown that people are more likely to follow through with commitments when they have verbally agreed to do some- thing. It’s a play on human psy-chology that just may work to your advantage! OM