Why Patients Miss Appointments

2 min read

To develop an effective strategy for minimizing no-shows, it is essential to understand the underlying causes. This simple fact has been the motivation for countless studies in the industry. Of these, the reasons that patients no-show tend to fall into one of three categories: access barriers, human nature, or issues with their provider.

Approximately a quarter of patients cite barriers to access, such as transportation, work or childcare conflicts, and financial issues, as the reason they missed an appointment. While some are unavoidable, many can be minimized through general efforts to improve access. For example, 3.6 million people skip medical care annually due to transportation challenges. Efforts to improve patient education about public transportation or ride-share programs, as well as exploring partnerships with ride-service providers, are ways providers can take control and help eliminate this issue.

The most common reasons patients miss appointments are related to the human condition. In a recent survey, more than 50% of patients simply forgot their appointment, while nearly 30% got the appointment date or time wrong. Patients also said they skipped appointments for too bad (or good) weather because they were feeling better or just lacked the motivation to go. While not all of these can be addressed directly, a significant percentage of them can be remedied with a robust reminder strategy— which, when it doesn’t get patients in the door, can motivate them to call in advance to cancel and reschedule.

Reasons related to issues with their provider are also fairly common. Studies often cite these as “emotional reasons.” Negative feelings from a previous experience, feeling disconnected from their provider, or the perception of disrespect, along with fears about the appointment, be it a procedure or diagnostic outcome, are typical. Eliminating these reasons is entirely within the control of the provider. Efforts to improve their patients' experience, providing more personalization and better communication at the time of service, can diminish these negative emotions.

The patient’s administrative experience can also play a part. Long wait times are frequently cited as why they chose not to come. And the phone experience is almost always responsible for why patients fail to cancel or reschedule. When patients are experiencing anxiety about a visit or have a last-minute conflict, they are not likely to wait long on the phone. In fact, the majority of patients will not wait longer than two minutes, and their sentiment declines as time goes on. Luckily, administrative issues are among the easiest to fix. Optimizing your patient access processes, from schedule management to inbound and outbound calls, can improve the patient experience onsite and over the phone.

Learn more about patient no-shows in our white paper:

The Wild Card: Strategizing Around The Unpredictability And Inevitability Of No-shows