Ways To Cut Down Your Last Minute Cancellations
By Practice Growth February 21, 2020
Last-minute cancellations can be quite damaging for your practice. A last-minute cancellation can mean revenue loss and a longer than necessary wait for a patient who could have filled the cancellation spot. A strictly enforced cancellation penalty will drastically reduce last-minute cancellations, but can sometimes hinder patient relationships The reward of a cancellation penalty (less cancellations) is accompanied by two major risks: new patients may hesitate to book because they don’t want to pay for services they didn’t receive if something comes up, and loyal patients may feel offended by a policy that makes them feel untrusted. Word spreads fast. If you penalize a patient for their erratic schedule, a family emergency, or traffic delays, they’re almost certainly going to talk about it. One patient can quickly become ten patients who choose a competitor with a more lenient policy.
There are plenty of ways to cut down on last-minute cancellations without alienating your patients. If you try a method and it doesn’t work, try something else. In most cases, a combination of methods will have the greatest impact. Here are some methods that have proven effective:
Focus on Last-Minute Bookings, Not Last-Minute Cancellations
Make booking last-minute appointments easy with an online booking calendar. Patients are more likely to book an appointment on a whim if they can do it without calling to check availability. If your patients usually wait a week or more for an appointment due to a packed schedule, offer a waitlist option for patients who express interest in an earlier appointment.
Make it Easy to Cancel an Appointment
Some people dread canceling appointments, and they procrastinate. Canceling an appointment by email or text message is a lot less personal, and can encourage people to cancel earlier, allowing you more time to fill the spot.
Text and email reminders should be sent a week or so ahead of an appointment. Life can be hectic, and many people rely on reminders. Your patients should be able to cancel or reschedule the appointment by replying or clicking a link.
Acknowledge Patients Who Cancel Early
Acknowledging patients when they do the right thing is a sure way to keep them on track. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.
When the experience is personal, a patient will feel more inclined to cancel with sufficient notice. It’s human nature - we’re more conscious of the impact our actions have on another person if we have a connection with that person. Build rapport with each patient; a patient shouldn’t feel that his or her absence will go unnoticed.