Have you ever uttered these words?
“If I could just take control of my cancellations…”
“How can I decrease my cancellations…?”
“Charge someone for a cancellation? No way! We don’t want to upset them…”
If you answered yes to any one of those, then you're not alone.
Same-day cancellations are a pain in the butt! A high percentage of same-day cancellations and no-shows can affect your bottom line and make it difficult to know when to hire new staff. Do you have a high rate of same-day cancellations and/or no-shows? If this applies to you, then read on and I’ll provide suggestions you can use to take control.
Same-day cancellations and no-shows are disruptive to your practice as well as the lives of your patients.
When someone calls to cancel on the day of their appointment, they prevent other patients from getting the care they need so now, 2 people go without getting care: the patient who cancelled without the required notice and another patient who would’ve taken that appointment if it was available sooner. On top of that, you’re paying staff who don’t have someone to treat.
The key to managing your schedule and helping more people is to get your patients to provide at least a days’ notice for appointment changes and cancellations. Maintaining and utilizing a cancellation program that keeps everyone in check and offers your team the time needed to fill a spot with another patient is your key to success. (Read Marc’s Success Story and learn how his team has taken control of same-day cancellations once and for all.)
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Same-day cancellations and no-shows don’t just affect patient care, they cause more confusion in your front end and also increase their workload on any given day. When your daily CX/NS rate is high, your front-end team has to hustle to find refills which pulls them away from important day-to-day tasks and keeps them focused on today’s problem instead of tomorrow’s schedule.
To keep your team focused on positive action and also help them be successful in their position, prevention is key.
The more patients who provide notice of an appointment change or cancellation, the better for everyone involved. (In a previous article, I discussed same-day cancellations and measuring clean arrival rate. You can read it here.)
A common complaint I hear, is that no one likes to charge or confront someone about their late notice or no-show. Everyone is worried the patient will freak out or get angry, so they won’t confront them.
When patients are allowed to continuously cancel on the day of their appointment (or even worse, when someone continues to no-show for an appointment), it causes a downward spiral that keeps the practice from moving forward and expanding their reach. If you feel like you’re spending a lot of money to market your services but aren’t getting the return you expect, a high rate of same-day cancellations and/or no-shows could be part of the cause. Which do you feel, is worse? Handling someone who provided late notice and dealing with their potential upset? Or not helping more people get the care they need? For me, it’s knowing that due to a high rate of cancellations or no-shows, there are people who need help that aren’t getting it.
So, why do patients cancel? It comes down to one thing; they don’t understand what you need from them.
We live in a very different society than we did 20 years ago (or even 10 years ago). People are moving at a faster pace, are more distracted by technology, and they’re just “so busy” that they don’t make the time to take care of themselves the way they should.
One way or another, the patient who cancels same-day doesn’t understand what you need from them and they become a problem that no one wants to deal with. They cause frustration, upset, and they even lower your team’s morale.
Prevention is key – the more you can prevent same-day cancellations and no-shows, the better it will be for everyone involved.
Here are 5 specific actions you can take right now to prevent same-day cancellations and no-shows:
Remain focused on the correct product.The more PEOPLE HELPED, the better. Put your team’s focus on the people they can help, and you will get them helping more people.
FOCUS on the positive.Don’t track and measure cancellation rate, use arrival rate to keep your team focused on the positive outcomes. When someone is focused on what they can or did ‘do’, they get excited and work harder to achieve success. The opposite is also true. When someone’s focus is put on something negative, it lowers their willingness to confront and handle it. If you want your team to work toward helping the practice achieve success, you need them focused on successful actions. Getting more people to arrive for care, is the most successful action I can think of. And it’s served us well in our practice.
PREVENTION is KEY.It’s never really about charging that same-day cancellation or late notice fee, it’s about prevention. Prevent the problem, don’t wait until it’s happened to deal with it. In order to increase your arrivals, you need to prevent same-day cancellations and no-shows altogether. Put a cancellation program in place that prevents same-day cancellations and no-shows instead of one that is focused on disciplining patients for them.
Have a program that offers a way to handle patients who provide late notice or no-show for a scheduled appointment.If you put a prevention program into effect, you won’t have as many same-day cancellations or no-shows, but you still might have a few. So, you need a specific program that lays out the exact actions that should be taken when a same-day cancellation or no-show occurs. When you have a set system that can be followed with specific steps to take, your team will have more certainty and be more confident when handling those problem patients. Without a process to follow, without specific actions laid out, they won’t handle someone like they should. Your team needs to have a program that can be followed, that explains what happens when, and one that helps them know what should be handled and how to do it.
Train your front office team – build true Patient Care Coordinators.The better trained they are, the more effective they’ll be and the more your practice will thrive. Consistency is key – everyone should have the same training, the same understanding of how to properly manage patients, and the same steps to follow when handling a same-day cancellation or no-show. When you have a system in place and a training program that provides your front office team with a better understanding of how to best manage patients and handle their objections, the more successful they’ll be and the more efficient and effective your practice will be.
I started Front Office GURU with a single goal in mind and that’s to help private practices thrive. Your front office plays an integral role in your success and yet, most practices don’t have set training and systems to ensure that everyone in the front office manages patients the same way. That’s why I created an affordable program; to help you establish a set system for patient management and the training your front office team needs to properly manage patient care. Don’t wait until the perfect time to get started because there will never be that perfect time, that perfect staff.
Wishing you the best, today and always, Dee