Patient Scheduling: The Stages of Dealing with Late & No-Show Patients


You work incredibly hard in your practice to keep everything organized, technology up-to-date, and inventory stocked to best serve your patients. So, it's no surprise that you and your staff are left frustrated when a patient shows up late or doesn't show up at all.

We realize how big of an issue late and no-show patients can be for many practices. Frequent late and no-show patients can really set your practice back.

Today, we want to take you through the stages of dealing with these types of patients and then offer some ideas for how you can deal with them.

Patient Scheduling: The Frustrations of Dealing with Late & No-Show Patients

The Original Appointment is Scheduled

Kindel at Willow White stars review five stars five star review GIF

Your patient loved that they were able to schedule their appointment online. And you loved not having to spend time making the appointment with them on the phone. You're happy. Your patient is happy. Everything is going great.

Your System Sends Out a Pre-Appointment Reminder

great job thumbs up GIF

With some practice management systems, patient reminder and recall tools are built in. Once you set up the automatic text or email reminders, you don't have to do a thing. The reminder goes out just like that.

It's the Day of the Appointment and Everything is Normal

patient recall

Patients are showing up on time for their appointments. You're working hard. It's just another normal day in the office.

5 Minutes Pass By and the Patient Hasn't Shown

Tips for ECPs

They are probably just a few minutes late because they are stuck in traffic, right? You try not to assume the worst and tell yourself they will show up any minute. Everyone is late at some point. It's just 5 minutes.

Another 5 Minutes Pass and Now They are 10 Minutes Late

eye care practice

Okay, they still haven't arrived and you're getting annoyed. On top of that, a walk-in just arrived. Do you tell them you're free?

They are Now 15 Minutes Late and Still No Patient

optical practice

Your schedule is officially going to be pushed back the rest of the day now.

The Patient Finally Shows Up 20 Minutes Late

patient scheduling tips

You're annoyed. But it's your job to offer great patient care, so you force a smile and greet the patient.

Or Worse, the Patient Never Shows

Season 9 Waiting GIF by Friends

Your schedule! Everything is behind! It's not fair that your other patients have to suffer!

You and Your Staff Spend the Rest of the Day Frantically Trying to Play Catch-Up

patient recall trends

It's chaos. It's a mess. Every patient is annoyed.

You Try to Contact the No-Show Patient to Reschedule

custome service

You're feeling a little rejected, but you still have to reschedule the patient.

The New Appointment Day Approaches

come on please GIF by The Gong Show

You cross your fingers as the previous no-show patient's new appointment approaches. You hope that they will actually show up on time.

Ideas for Managing Late & No-Show Patients

  • Survey the reasons patients give for being late or missing appointments. Is there a common theme? Is it avoidable?
  • Make sure you have automatic patient notifications set up to remind patients of their appointment the day before.

  • Present the option for patients to pre-pay for their appointments. This can act as an incentive for them to show up.
  • Reward your patients who do show up on time. Perhaps all on time patients are entered into a monthly drawing for a local gift card.
  • Confirm contact information when patients schedule their next appointment.
  • Charge for cancellations that give you less than 24-hour notice.
  • Have a late and no-show policy clearly written out. Post it on your practice website and in your office. 
  • Keep building strong patient relationships. The more patients feel they know you, the more likely they are to respect your time.

Plan ahead to create room for growth and error. Download our guide to developing a 5 Year Plan.


Editor's Note: This post was originally published on August 2015. It has been updated for relevance and richness of content on February 2020.

Back to Blog

Related Articles

How to Get Your Patients Interacting with Your Patient Portal

You've invested in the perfect patient portal and it is equipped with all of the features that you...

How to Connect with Patients Using A Patient Portal

Staying top-of-mind and regularly connecting with your patients can help you retain patients and...

Things Patients Want From a Patient Portal

The use of a patient portal in your eyecare practice will have a lot of benefits for both you and...