When it comes to patient scheduling, you know better than anyone how disruptive to your workflow (not to mention your bottom line) a cancelled appointment can be, especially if it's last minute.
While it’s true that sometimes things just come up and people aren’t able to make it to their appointment, you still want to work on getting the number of appointment cancellations in your optical practice down – after all, those cancelled appointments have a direct effect on your revenue.
How to Manage and Avoid Appointment Cancellations
Create a Policy
Create a policy for cancellations (or enforce the one you already have). Whether you charge a fee for same-day cancellations or you place some other restriction on people who cancel, you want to make it clear that cancelling appointments should be a last-resort option. You can also implement a reward system for patients who arrive on-time to their scheduled appointments – maybe a monthly drawing they are entered in, or discounts on products in your dispensary. Either way, you need to make sure you have a policy in place to discourage cancellations.
Employ a Patient Recall System
One of the best ways to get patients to keep their appointments is to simply remind them. If you can stay in touch through a patient recall system, you can get on a patient’s radar earlier so the appointment is front of mind. A great patient recall system will send out automated messages to remind patients about upcoming appointments via text, email, phone, or postcard. These messages can be completely customized and even better, they won’t keep your staff stuck on the phone calling up patients all day.
Manage Your Schedule
Don’t overbook or crowd up your schedule. You might be tempted to double-book so that if someone cancels you can easily fill in the slot, but you run the risk of forcing someone to move their appointment due to your mistake. Another reason to be mindful of your schedule is your patients’ time – when appointments run long or your office is too crowded, you aren’t able to see patients at the correct time, meaning they will have to sit and wait – this does not leave a good impression. Patients are more likely to cancel if they feel their time isn’t being respected. Instead, you want to build a strong relationship with your patients so they are just as respectful of your time.
Utilize Online Scheduling Tools
Using online scheduling tools can help take some of the work off your plate. Whether you want to make use of an app like Everseat to give your patients the ability to fill in open appointment slots, or if you want to keep a list of “on call” patients that can show up with short notice, having a backup plan for open appointments can help keep your revenue from suffering. If you want to add an extra incentive for patients to show up, offer an option to pre-pay for the appointment when they book - they'll be much less likely to cancel if they have already paid upfront.
How does your practice handle cancelled appointments? Here are more tips on running your small business.