Use software to tackle no-shows


Your scheduling software gives you four more defenses against no-shows.

If you're not using your software to track and prevent missed appointments, you're missing an opportunity to improve productivity and profitability. Use these functions to make it work for you:

1. Pop-ups and notations. "If someone misses an appointment, you can put in a pop-up notation about it with most software," says Sheila Grosdidier, RVT, a consultant with VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. Then when this client calls to reschedule, your note will alert the receptionist that this client missed a previous appointment. "It can be as simple as RE to indicate a reschedule," she says. When the person doing reminder calls sees this notation, he or she will be sure to talk to the client in person rather than leave a message. Or perhaps she could leave the client a message at home and at work, just in case.

Even if you use paper files, you must find a way to track repeat offenders. Each time a client whiffs on an appointment, make sure your team adds a star to the file—or some other indication that this client has done it again. This way, you'll know when it's time to address the problem.

2. Color coding. "When clients schedule appointments, have your team members ask whether they prefer to be called 24 or 48 hours in advance, mailed a reminder card, or e-mailed," says Grosdidier. "And then color code their appointment in your schedule or appointment grid so that your team members know what to do. Some clients like to be reminded further ahead, and others want it as close to the time of the appointment as possible."

If you have a certain type of appointment that seems more likely to no-show, or that has more costly consequences, pick a color and code those appointments with your software so that your team members know it's extremely important to get ahold of those clients to confirm and remind them.

3. E-mail reminders. You can set up many software programs to send e-mail reminders, says Grosdidier.

4. Tracking and analysis. "Periodically, make sure you go back and analyze your schedule to see when no-shows occurred," says Grosdidier. Your software should let you generate a statistical survey, like an Excel spreadsheet. She recommends you do this for 30-day periods, because a week isn't long enough to identify a trend. "This graph will tell you the frequency of missed appointments and when your gaps are by increments of time (usually 15-minute periods), by doctors, and by day," she says. "The missed appointments show up as blank spaces on the schedule."

If you see trends, you might be able to pinpoint the problem. "It could be that you have a 7 percent rate of no-shows in general, but a 25 percent rate of no-shows for one doctor on Wednesday afternoons," says Grosdidier. "This can happen if you have a gap in your process. For instance, the person who is scheduled to do call-backs on Tuesday afternoons just isn't doing them. Or maybe something else is going on. But at least you'll know you have a problem."

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