Healthcare reform is opening the door to more patients who need access to healthcare. Full appointment schedules can be correlated to increased bottom line revenues. So, if there are more potential patients seeking access, then why are more patients not showing up to appointments? On average, 5-20%1 of patients skip out on an appointment with no prior notice to the clinic or physician’s office.
Part of the problem, according to The Washington Post2, is that patients generally need to wait 18.5 days before they can get an appointment to see a physician. Eventually, according to the Annals of Family Medicine3, 42% of patients will decide to skip their appointments during this period. In many cases, the patient feels better and no longer needs the appointment. But do they always remember to cancel it? Unfortunately, they do not.
The Impact of Patient No-Show
The most significant challenge patients face today is their ability to access their providers when they need them. Current research has found4 that approximately 23% of patients do not show up for their appointment unless they are proactively reminded. As a result, the Annals of Family Medicine states that these no-shows have a negative impact on HCAPHS scores and bottom line profitability.
No-shows reduce productivity, ef?ciency and limit the ability of a clinic to serve those in need of more immediate care by reducing its effective capacity. If a patient gives short notice for a cancellation or doesn’t show up at all, it’s a significant challenge to fill the missed appointment. This takes time away from helping patients who are present and are in need of additional medical services or want to schedule future appointments.
The popular solution is double-booking appointments. While this increases access for patients, it can also lead to clinician overtime and patient frustration with longer wait times. Research5found that one multi-physician clinic had over 14,000 no-shows in a single year, resulting in an estimated loss of over one million dollars. With group practices accounting for 47% of the approximately 230,000 physician practices in the U.S., clinics risk losing more than $100 billion annually due to patient no-shows.
This patient-provider equation is only expected to get worse. By 2025, the U.S. will have a shortage of approximately 130,000 physicians. Reducing no-shows by providing patient-centric care that both helps patients understand their treatment while also empowering your staff to get more done faster seems complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. Conversational virtual assistant solutions are helping to bridge the gap between patients and providers, without requiring additional staff or resources.
Enter Conversational Virtual Assistants
Virtual assistants are not a new concept, but one of growing relevance and adoption. Conversational virtual assistants use simple, natural language to gather more accurate and timely information while delivering unprecedented comprehension when patients call.
Instead of getting held up in an endless series of menus and prompts, patients can simply contact their provider and have a natural dialogue with a virtual assistant to describe what they need. Because the patient can speak in his or her own words, as if speaking with another person, more is accomplished in a shorter period of time.
Providers and clinicians benefit from virtual assistants by being able to efficiently gather more accurate and timely information from patients to support their care plan. Patients, on the other hand, are able to easily inquire about their condition or latest test results, get directions to the nearest facility and hours of operation, ask questions relevant to their care or have their call routed to the clinician they need to schedule their appointment with.
Virtual assistants are changing the patient no-show equation with highly conversational technology that helps foster the patient-provider relationship. Patients use natural conversation to engage a provider to find the information they need quickly and on their own terms, keeping them engaged and active in their healthcare management. Healthcare systems benefit by reducing costs from patients not being prepared for their appointments or simply not showing up.
Health systems that have implemented conversational virtual assistants have an unprecedented opportunity to change patient and provider behavior, overall experience and ultimately, our collective health. In a world where technology is able to grant instant access to nearly everything, physicians across the country should leverage this highly accurate intelligence to make patients’ healthcare experiences a faster, seamless and empowering process.
Kathleen Schroeder, senior marketing manager – Healthcare at Interactions, is a seasoned healthcare professional with an MBA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin. Throughout her extensive career, she has worked tenaciously to represent the voice of the patient through numerous social outlets, speaking engagements and customer encounters. By educating healthcare systems on the value of putting patients first, she is committed to improving the patient-provider experience.
- Toland, Bill. “No-shows cost health care system billions,” Pittsburg Post-Gazette. Feb 24, 2013. http://www.post-gazette.com/business/businessnews/2013/02/24/No-shows-cost-health-care-system-billions/stories/201302240381
- Gold, Jenny, “In cities, the average doctor wait-time is 18.5 days,” The Washington Post. Jan 29, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/01/29/in-cities-the-average-doctor-wait-time-is-18-5-days/
- Lacy, Naomi. “Why We Don’t Come: Patient Perceptions on No-Shows,” Annals of Family Medicine. vol. 2 no 6. Nov 1, 2004. http://www.annfammed.org/content/2/6/541.full
- Evans, Melanie. “When revenue is a no-show,” Modern Healthcare. Nov 3, 2012.http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20121103/MAGAZINE/311039954
- Mckee, Shawn. “Measuring the Cost of Patient No-Shows.” http://www.poweryourpractice.com/practice-management/measuring-cost-of-patient-no-shows/