No-show patients who don’t come for an appointment – leaving you with an empty time slot – are one of the most frustrating things we deal with.
There are plenty of good reasons to no-show: flat tires, illness, and last-minute things at work. I don’t mind those too much, especially when patients have the decency to call in, even at the last minute or afterward, to apologize and let me know. Those things happen to all of us. Sometimes even the fault is with our scheduling and not the patient.
But the really frustrating ones are the ones who just don’t show up, especially when they’re new patients and you’ve booked out an hour.
I can always use the time. Certainly, there’s never any shortage of stuff in a modern practice: dictations to be done, test results to review, refills to okay, and the endless forms of varying types. But it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s an hour you’re taking a financial loss on. My wife uses the phrase that "butts in seats" is what pays the bills in an office practice, and I can’t argue with that.
Predictably, I’m not very forgiving toward them. An established patient who forgets an appointment here and there I generally don’t punish, but a new one without a damn good reason gets my wrath. Most never call in, but the ones that do I usually won’t reschedule.
When I first started out I took 20 or so different insurance companies. After a few years I did an analysis, and found one insurance company accounted for nearly 50% of my no-shows. I dropped it, and this brought down the rate quite a bit. But they still happen and are unavoidable.
Even so, there are some days where a confluence of no-shows can leave you with an empty schedule, scratching your head and trying to use the extra time productively (as opposed to watching Monty Python on YouTube).
Dr. Block has a solo neurology private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.