6 steps toward reducing patient no-shows at your radiology practice

Patient no-shows were already a costly and disruptive occurrence at imaging practices before the pandemic. But their impact is even more magnified at a time when radiologists are grappling with scarce resources and enormous backlogs of deferred care.

Patients may have myriad reasons for standing up their physician—ranging from childcare to fear and anxiety, transportation issues or insurance coverage. Wise radiology practices must find ways to anticipate and mitigate these hindrances to keep their calendars fully booked, experts wrote this month in the journal of Risk Management and Healthcare Policy.

Lead author Dounia Marbouh and colleagues recently conducted a literature review, and offered up advice practice leaders can follow to begin addressing this phenomenon.

“Patient no-shows disrupt the healthcare delivery system by creating inefficiencies and keeping idle the utilization of valuable resources,” noted Marbouh, with the Research Center of Digital Supply Chain and Operations at Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “Identifying all possible factors underlying no-shows with appropriate mitigation strategies…may help healthcare organizations to reduce and absorb the impact of no-shows.”

She and her co-authors suggested six mitigation strategies stemming from their analysis:

1) Shortening wait times between scheduling and the actual appointment. Patients are often sensitive to delays, with any lead time longer than two weeks upping one’s likelihood that they’ll fail to attend.

2) Using automated reminders such as text messages, emails or phone calls, with one previous study estimating that the latter could drop no-show rates by upward of 21%.

3) Creating a separate cancellation line that uses “smart” communication language, giving patients the courage to call off their appointment if they’re on the fence and know that attendance is unlikely.

4) Harnessing predictive analytics by analyzing a patient’s past history in the electronic health record and devising models that calculate the likelihood they’ll show up. This could also assist with overbooking strategies, the authors added.

5) Charging a no-show fee is a typical practice in the airline industry, and radiology providers might also find success in levying financial penalties or offering incentives to those with clean attendance records.

6) Reducing fear and anxiety that patients might experience when receiving imaging services, particularly for those with claustrophobia who are weary of MRI exams.

“It is crucial to develop strategies, such as providing detailed information to patients, usage of audiovisual tools, and anxiety-reducing protocols,” Marbouh and colleagues wrote. “These strategies, in addition to providing healthcare providers with the right training, can make patients more medically literate about their condition and mentally prepared to attend their appointment without unnecessary worry and fear.”

You can read more from the research team for free in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy here.