Tips for ODs: How to Handle No-Shows and Late Patients


Your optometry practice can be incredibly organized and run like a well-oiled machine. But a late patient or a no-show can throw off your entire schedule and ruin your well-laid plans.

Late patients can cause a build-up of wait time for other patients and may even cause you and your staff to work past office hours. And no-shows directly impact your practice’s revenue. Some patients just don’t value time as much as you do, but there are also patients who encounter real emergencies. Keep reading for a few ways that you can reduce the number of late or no-show patients.

3 Ways to Reduce No-Shows and Late Patients and Increase Patient Scheduling

No_Show_patient_schedulingImplement a Late and No Show Policy 

Include an easy to understand policy in the pre-appointment paperwork all your patients have to fill out. Depending on your flexibility, there are many ways to implement a late or no show policy. Some examples include:

  • A late or no show fee: Money is a common motivator. When there are monetary consequences, your patients will feel the pressure to arrive on time. A no show fee equivalent to an average co-pay can help your customer understand the exact value of how much your practice is losing when they don’t show up, which might make them more accepting of your policy. It’s up to you to be flexible with the policy. You can waive the no-show fee if the patient calls to reschedule their appointment at least 24 hours ahead of time.

  • An Automatic Reschedule: If you don’t want to charge a customer for being late, you can make your patients reschedule if they are more than 15 minutes late.

Make the details of the policy extremely obvious so patients won’t be caught by surprise when they are billed a late fee. If patients are scheduling an appointment through the phone, make sure that the receptionist verbally repeats the policy.

Reward Punctual Patients

A modern-day rewards system can work well to incentivize patients, too. Rewarding your patients can increase engagement and loyalty to your practice. During months that you experience an increase in no-shows, shoot out an email blast letting all your patients know that all punctual patients will be entered in to a drawing for a gift card at the end of the month. You can also offer discounts on the winner’s bill if they purchase frames at the end of their exam.

Use a Patient Recall System 

Appointments that are scheduled more than 3 months in advance can be hard to remember. And you should not be wasting your time calling patients reminding and confirming appointments every day. A patient recall system can help send automated reminders to your patients, and possibly send reminders through different communication methods if a response is not received from one. For example, if your patient does not respond to their email within 2 days, a text will be sent to their mobile phone. Investing in a patient recall system can help you schedule your calendar more efficiently, saving your practice time and increasing revenue.

Check out our ebook for more tips on keeping your practice workflow revenue-focused.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published on January 24th, 2015. It has been updated for relevance and richness of content on August 8th, 2018 
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