Patients miss doctor’s appointments. It is an inevitable part of healthcare. Some individuals simply forget that they scheduled it, and others might not have reliable transportation to get there. 

Whatever the reason, patient-no-shows cost physician practices — and the healthcare industry in general. Missed appointments consume an average of 14 percent of a practice’s daily revenue and cost the industry $150 billion annually. Even one unused appointment slot costs physicians about $200. 

Consequences of No-Shows and Cancellations 

Missed appointments by patients because of no-shows and cancellations do more than lead to loss of expected revenue. They typically lead to longer wait times for other patients, lower satisfaction, wasted resources, reduced productivity and clinical effectiveness, added stress on practice staff and an overall decrease in the quality of care.  

For patients, missing an appointment — no matter the reason — can negatively impact their health because of a delay in diagnosis and treatment, sometimes leading to otherwise preventable chronic disease. They reduce their access to preventive screenings and medical care, lack continuity of care and have more admissions to the emergency department.  

Proactive Outreach for Appointment Reminders 

Physician practices and other healthcare providers actively working to minimize no-shows can reduce them by up to 70 percent. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple reminder. 

Appointment reminder types shown to be effective include phone calls, email and text messaging. Phone calls — including live calls, automated messages and interactive voice response calls — specifically have been proven to reduce no-shows for primary care visits. 

Solutions with conversational artificial intelligence (AI) are increasingly being employed by medical groups to conduct patient outreach efficiently and cost-effectively for appointment reminders. This secure technology meets patients’ expectations for a seamless healthcare experience while reducing the administrative burden on practice staff. 

The more interactive nature of conversational AI is beneficial because unlike traditional appointment reminders, it gives healthcare consumers the ability to procure more details about the scheduled visit without having to speak with a live agent. They can even reschedule their appointment if necessary during the same call, saving them time and providing the convenience they desire.

By using conversational AI to remind patients of upcoming appointments, providers can not only reduce revenue leakage but also promote better closure rates for referrals. A good first step is calculating the no-show rate

A no-show rate is the percentage of appointment time lost because patients do not show up or cancel at the last minute. The equation is simply to divide the number of no-shows (including late cancellations) by the total number of weekly appointments. Factors that influence a medical practice’s no-show rate include geographic location, patient demographics, scheduling practices, types of payers and appointment types. 

Recommendations for Employing Conversational AI In Your Practice 

The conversational AI solution you use should be designed to understand the way patients communicate and adapt accordingly. Unlike rules-based chatbots that only offer a limited number of pre-determined scripts for very specific questions, these tools leveraging machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) use a more conversational tone to provide patients with options and answers based on their varied responses. 

When a patient is contacted to confirm an appointment, a conversational AI tool gives them the opportunity to ask questions about the visit. For example, “Where should I park?” or “What do I  need to bring with me to the appointment?” 

When utilizing technology such as conversational AI to distribute appointment reminders, the  Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) recommends:

  • Ensuring the reminders offer personalized messages that include the specific details of their appointment, such as date, time, location and the provider’s name or service being provided
  • Making it easy for patients to cancel and release the appointment slot if necessary
  • Asking patients for their communication preferences before or at their first appointment and periodically after that as long as they remain part of your practice 
  • If a physician must cancel appointments, proactively reach out to those patients and give them priority in rescheduling 

Reaching out to patients too often — even to remind them about an appointment they scheduled — can do more harm than good, so this type of outreach should be limited to no more than three contacts. If a patient confirms his or her appointment through conversational AI outreach, only a reminder call the day before the appointment is needed. 

Patients who are more active in their own care often have better health outcomes. Conversational AI promotes patient engagement by meeting these individuals’ expectations for a seamless experience, a primary goal outlined in the transition to healthcare consumerism.  

Call 540-516-3602 to start your interactive demo of Providertech’s conversational AI solution for patient engagement using test patient Sara Morales D.O.B. 7/20/81. Or, book an appointment with a member of our team.