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How to reduce no-shows in your Private Practice

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pathwaysoftware View Drop Down

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    Posted: Oct 17 2013 at 8:21am
Whilst attracting new clients is often a major concern for many private practices, difficulties can arise in actually getting people to show up for their scheduled appointments. No-shows can be costly both financially and in terms of your valuable time, and can affect the relationships that you build with your clients.

Whilst the reasons for failing to attend can be numerous, there are a few simple changes that you can make to help reduce the number of instances where clients Did Not Attend (DNA).

1. SMS and Email Reminders

One of the simplest explanations for a missed appointment is that the client simply forgets. To combat this sending a reminder message prior to the appointment can help to jog their memory to attend or to contact you in the event that they need to cancel or rearrange.

Whilst you could do this manually, investing in a Practice Management System can take away a lot of this headache for you. In many cases, SMS and Email Reminders are sent automatically as a result of appointment creation, and can be configured to be distributed at specified intervals before the appointment takes place.

Most systems will allow you to specify caseload-wide policies and then give you the ability opt-in or opt-out specific clients so that you don’t run foul of any privacy rules.

Many systems have built-in SMS services which negate the need for you to procure a separate mobile phone or use your personal number or device. These services can often customised so that SMS messages contain your practice name, and emails contain your contact details.

In most cases email reminders are provided free and text messages are charged on a per message basis which can vary dramatically so check the small print!

2. SMS and Email Confirmations

Much like the Reminders, sending a Confirmation immediately after booking an appointment to the client’s phone or inbox can serve as a useful aide memoire. It provides them with your contact details should they need to get in touch and may even prompt them to put the appointment straight into their own calendar.

3. Online Booking

Allowing clients to chose their own appointment slots can help to ensure that they only schedule appointments for times they are genuinely able to make. Presenting a view of the availability of your clinic hours and schedule in a client-friendly format can also help them to plan in a more informed manner, and puts the responsibility of selecting a date and time into their hands.

Online booking software that links to your online diary can allow clients to select exactly what type of treatment they want, and presents current availability with yourself or your colleagues, depending on the configuration of your practice.

Each treatment type can have a specific description, including information about price and duration, so that anyone looking to book can make a more informed decision. Clients can navigate forward in time to get a better idea of your upcoming availability, and you can offset this as much as you wish to accept last-minute bookings, or only those in a few days time.

Some systems encompass a text verification module that doubles as both a reducer of erroneous bookings and as a method to match your clients to any records for them that exist within your Practice Management System. Clients who exist in your system are matched to their details, whilst new clients can enter their phone number and email address, automating record creation and allowing you to contact them at a later date.

Once an online appointment has been booked by the client, they can be sent a confirmation email, and be presented with an easily printable page which details your practice terms and conditions, and directions to your location.

4. Prepayment

Undoubtedly, services that are paid for up front are less likely to be missed. You can consider taking up front payments, either in full or a deposit, to lessen the chance of missed appointments, and reduce the financial impact if they do occur.

One of the simplest ways is to implement a PayPal shop front on your site to take payments for different treatment types, which they can pay for directly through PayPal into your account.

Alternatively your clients can use PayPal mobile to pay you directly from their smartphone in a process that takes less than 30 seconds.

5. Tracking, tagging and Records

Whilst you can attribute many DNA’s to simple forgetfulness or a change of circumstance, you may find that patterns emerge, and that specific clients are repeat offenders. Without accurate record-keeping you may miss these trends, so you should consider a manner of identifying these individuals.

If you have a Practice Management System, you should be able to view a clear appointment history for each client. You can also mark appointments with different statuses, so you could mark all those who fail to attend as having “DNA” appointments, which will also remove them from any expected income calculations or invoices.

If failure to attend happens repeatedly for a specific client, you may wish to consider adding a note to their record indicating that they routinely miss appointments. This information will therefore be immediately to hand next time you or a colleague wishes to book an appointment for them. Systems with a “tagging” functionality can allow you to easily amalgamate these individuals into one easy exportable list, and their DNA tag will be easily viewable on their record.

Full client profiles with contact details can also be helpful if you wish to follow-up missed appointments with an email or phone call. Ensure that you capture as much information as possible for each client, and that you make an effort to contact patients who have slipped out of your regular caseload.

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