It’s a problem every medical practice around the world faces: canceled appointments. Worse, there are people who don’t cancel – even last minute. Instead, they simply don’t show up.

Life happens. People have unavoidable things happen. Whether it’s a car accident or a last-minute work requirement, most people will need to cancel a doctor’s appointment sometime. You’ve probably even done it yourself.

But there are some people who don’t just miss one appointment. Instead, they’re chronically unreliable, and they tend to miss more appointments than they attend. The good news is that they’re probably only a small percentage of your patient base. The bad news is that when they get used to canceling late or not showing up, it can become a habit.

This is why every practice should have a cancellation policy, and it should be backed up by automated appointment reminders.

Create a Cancellation and No-Show Policy

Before you start using appointment reminders, create a cancellation and no-show policy.

If you plan to charge your patients if they don’t attend their appointment, you first need to make them aware that the policy exists, and under which circumstances it applies.

Some practices – particularly specialists who might offer elective treatments as well as medically required services could also choose to charge a non-refundable deposit.

However, you plan to structure your appointment booking, cancellation, and no-show policies, make sure you make it very clear to all your patients. Post it on your website, provide them with a copy of the policies, and link to it from any online appointment booking form.

Change Booking Policies

If you have some patients who fall into the ten percent who typically don’t show up or call to cancel, you might want to create a tiered appointment booking system.

The closer to the date of the appointment those patients book, the less likely they will be to forget about them or double book themselves. So, segment your patient list, and make sure those people can only book same-day or next-day appointments.

When it comes to the question of how to reduce cancellations, you have to think like a business. There are some people that just can’t be trusted to show up, so you need to protect your bottom line.

Make Reminders a Priority

There are several ways you could remind patients about their appointments, and you should probably try more than one, which might include:

  • Call no shows as soon as possible to reschedule and find out what the reason was
  • Start a waiting list, and offer to put patients who need urgent appointments on it – that way, when you do get a late cancellation or a no show, you have people you can call to fill their spot

There are several reasons why appointment reminders matter.

Next, if you have people who typically don’t show up or cancel, if you have a policy to charge them for the time, they can’t claim to not know about the appointment if you have records of reminding them.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to force people to respect your time. But you can take steps to prevent and limit no-shows and appointment cancellations, and intakeQ can help. With intakeQ’s automated appointment reminders, you patients can automatically send SMS or email reminders — or both — the day before an appointment.

Sign up for a free 14-day trial and see how intakeQ can help you reduce no-shows with automated appointment reminders, online scheduling, and other practice management tools.