If you own a physical therapy practice, there is a good chance you have experienced a patient or several patients who, at one time or another, have fallen into the dreaded “no-show” category, meaning the person did not show up to the appointment and he/she did not call to notify you. There is also a good chance that this year alone, you have seen a steep increase in patients who are a “no-show” given the current state of restrictions for all businesses. Having a large number of patients who “no-show” not only impacts your daily schedule, but will likely also lead to a decrease in revenue and profit for your business, as a whole, depending on how many patients “no-show”. Since no-show patients pose a huge risk to the profitability and success of your physical therapy practice, here are several proactive ways to reduce the number of no-shows you experience:
- Set attendance boundaries during the initial evaluation: One of the best ways to reduce the number of times a patient “no-shows” for their appointment is to implement an attendance policy and review that policy with the patient during their initial evaluation. The attendance policy may vary, but it is good to have it written down on a sheet of paper that the patient will sign to acknowledge his/her understanding. This “no-show” and cancellation policy should include items, such as: a set charge for each “no-show” appointment, a timeframe for cancellations prior to the patient receiving a charge for cancelling, and a set number of “no-shows” the patient can have prior to being discharged from physical therapy services. This simple, but effective policy, allows each patient to understand the responsibility they have while attending physical therapy. Don’t forget to follow through on this when a “no-show” happens.
- Sending automated appointment reminders: When a patient is called and asked why they “no-show”, oftentimes the reason is because they forgot about their appointment or thought it was at a different time. How do you go about reducing how often a patient forgets? By sending out appointment reminders closer to his/her scheduled appointment time! Did you know that HelloNote has a feature which allows you to send out appointment reminders to each patient, prior to their next scheduled appointment? By setting up automated reminders in your EHR software for each patient, you are reminding the patient closer to the time of their appointment while giving them ample time to cancel/reschedule, if need be. If you are going to use automated appointment reminders, be sure to use a HIPAA secure platform, which HelloNote is!
- Offer a telehealth physical therapy appointment: Another reason people tend to “no-show” an appointment is simply because for some reason, that patient cannot make it into the office. Some common reasons are: a work schedule conflict, illness, traffic, a family issue, or inclement weather. If the patient is unable to make it into the office at the scheduled appointment time, then offer them a telehealth appointment, if appropriate, for that same time. This way the individual still receives the benefit of having a therapy session, but without the inconvenience of being in the office. While telehealth is great for some scenarios and individuals, be sure to emphasize the importance of continued in-person physical therapy appointments and the added benefits of being seen in-person vs virtually.
- Build a relationship with the patient: Attending physical therapy can be challenging, especially if patients feel they are not being heard, do not know what to expect, or do not trust the therapist to provide the care they need. This is where building a stellar rapport with your patients comes into play as it is a huge factor in patients returning for future therapy sessions. Understanding your patient’s goals and expectations, along with developing a collaborative plan of care which meets their specific needs is huge. When a patient is able to provide input and see an actionable plan, specifically tailored to where they want to be, then a patient is more likely to return for future appointments because they are excited about the treatment they are receiving. Continuous communication with your patients’ about how they are feeling, and whether or not they are satisfied with their current plan of care directly correlates to the commitment of the patient.
This article has provided you with four tips to reduce “no-shows”, but there are several other ways to decrease the number of “no-show” patients in your physical therapy practice. Through setting attendance boundaries up front, implementing automated appointment reminders, offering telehealth appointments and building relationships with your patients, patients are more likely to show increased commitment and responsibility to their physical therapy treatment.