4 Uncommon Scheduling Methods That Minimize Patient No-shows

2 min read

Patient no-shows are a persistent problem in the industry. With an average of nearly 20% across all practice types, they negatively impact providers ability to maximize capacity, diminishing access for patients and hurting operating margins. As with anything, desperate times often call for desperate measures and some organizations are turning to unique scheduling methods in an effort to head-off patient no-shows before they happen. This post will highlight 4 uncommon approaches along with the benefits and disadvantages of each.

  1. Overbooking and Double-booking

With this method, multiple patients are intentionally scheduled per appointment slot. Extreme executions book multiple patients in every time slot, while more conservative practices may have only one appointment slot double-booked per hour. This can certainly reduce the impact of no-show appointments as there will nearly always be a patient per appointment slot regardless of if a patient no-show or not. However, if all of your patients arrive it can create issues in time management, care quality, and the patient experience— especially if your practice is short-staffed.

  1. Wave Scheduling

The wave scheduling method has a couple of patients scheduled at the same time (typically at the top and bottom of the hour) and being seen on a “first come, first served” basis. In this approach, when a patient shows up late, they are simply moved to the next time slot, and if they all show up on time some can wait. The main difficulty with this method lies in the patient experience. Wait times for appointments can fluctuate greatly from visit to visit and ultimately punctual patients are punished with longer wait times.

  1. Open Booking

In an open booking format patients are given a time block they can arrive for their appointment instead of a designated appointment time. Seeing patients on a “first come, first served” basis can create a steady patient flow for physicians that will be minimally impacted by a patient missing their appointment. However, this method can be risky. If patients show up all at once it can create bottlenecks that are passed on to each time block down the line. Like wave scheduling, you may present patients with long wait times and negatively impact the patient experience.

  1. Open Office Combinations

Few want to utilize “open office” or “walk-in” hours exclusively as it can present challenges during peak times, but using an open office approach in combination with another scheduling strategy can offset no-shows and help to utilize downtime. This method certainly can still cause occasional long wait times for walk-ins but unlike patients who are given a designated appointment time, walk-in patients typically expect to wait so it’s not as impactful on their experience. No-show time slots are filled by walk-in patients at the time of service but this method is not without flaws: peak hours can still create bottlenecks.

Creative scheduling methods could be the answer to your no-show problem, but they require a huge commitment from staff to implement and communicate changes to your patient community. Before attempting a complete overhaul of your scheduling practices, you may want to try a simpler approach— that is employing a robust reminders and outreach strategy. Reminders have been proven to reduce the likelihood of no-shows, combined with convenient rescheduling options and timely outreach to patients willing to be seen sooner, you better optimize your capacity without reinventing the wheel.

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