More than 15 million appointments are missed every year. This money could be better spent on improving other areas of essential healthcare, such as A&E facilities, after-surgery support or research and development into new drugs.
Why Are Patients Missing Appointments?
Many practices having extensive waiting lists, with many patients choosing to phone and book cancelled appointments on the day rather than join the queue. Whilst often there are valid reasons for missing an appointment, more often than not patients simply forget they have an appointment, or arrange alternative plans and opt not to tell the practice they can no longer attend. However, when many appointments are cancelled due to no-shows, these extra spaces cannot be filled by other patients.
Another reason patient’s will not attend their appointments is due to fear or anxiety. Particularly with diagnosis, it is very common for individuals to be sceptical about hearing the outcome of a scan or blood test, and will therefore choose not to go to the appointment. Transportation or childcare can also cause problems, if a patient cannot easily make their way to the GP practice or other medical centre they may simply choose not to go, and to rearrange a more suitable time on their own terms. Often within these circumstances the appointment is not cancelled, so cannot be allocated to those on the waiting list.
How to Reduce the Number of Missed Appointments
Appointment reminder calls have had a significant effect in helping to reduce the amount of wasted time and money. However, whilst these are very effective, they can also be very time-consuming, particularly when patients do not answer the phone.
A more consistently successful method of reminding customers of their appointments is to send automated texts or emails. As society moves more towards self-service and automation, this sort of communication is much more accepted (and expected!) nowadays and can actually prove more effective than a personalised phone call.
An automated communication can also perhaps be perceived as much less intimidating than a phone call, which could lead individuals to be more likely to cancel their appointment if they cannot attend, as they have no fear of judgement for their reason. The increase in efficiency is not just seen on the practice side of things, it also helps patients who are time-short or who work unsociable hours, as they can simply reply to an automated message within a matter of minutes.
In addition to reminder capabilities, automated software can provide office staff with the ability to better respond to patient queries, and more easily reassign appointments to other patients. This saves both time and money, allowing office staff to focus on more important issues not relating to admin.
A better and quicker response from practices could also lead to improved satisfaction amongst patients, this allowing an easier implementation of the software to other practices — perhaps even encouraging a more successful adoption of future technologies.