The pace of modern life has made the once-simple act of confirming appointments anything but simple. There are many reasons why your scheduled patient may not be sitting in the exam chair when their allotted time comes. Don’t let laxity in your process be one of those reasons. Nothing reduces your productivity more than unplanned open slots in your schedule. Use all means at your disposal to obtain solid confirmation from patients. You’ll generally receive excellent return on investment when implementing technology (through your EHR itself or by adding other software such as Demand Force, Solution Reach, etc.) to automate the confirmation process and help your staff efficiently succeed in keeping your exam chairs occupied.
For best results, your team must understand the benefit to both the practice and those you serve when patients allow confirmation via text message. Staff can allay security concerns by assuring patients that their phone number will not be shared and explain the limited situations in which the practice will text them. Although phone and email can certainly still be used, robocalls have made many reluctant to answer their phone when they don’t recognize the number and email can go unopened or be overlooked. Texts are simply a more effective means of confirming appointments and also usually result in a quick response. Here are some other strategies to decrease open slots in your schedule:
- Keep a wait list of patients who would be willing to come on short notice if another patient cancels their appointment.
- Make sure your staff is aware of the cost (your average collection per exam) of each open slot in your schedule.
- Most EHR software allows tracking appointment history for patients. Document those patients who arrive late, cancel on the same day or no-show and flag them for special attention when confirming future appointments. Consider double-booking the appointment slot for these patients if they are not confirmed via text, email or live phone call. Simply leaving a reminder on voice mail or an answering machine is not sufficient for patients with a history of breaking appointments.
- Consider an office policy that charges a fee to patients who cancel on the day of their appointment or no show. If you do this, it’s important to have all patients sign a form that they understand the policy. I suggest a warning rather than a fee on the first offense.
- Although your team should strive to convince patients to allow texting, it’s still important to ask each patient how they would prefer to be contacted.