How to Handle No-Shows in a Medical Practice

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By, Katie Leander

When a patient misses a scheduled appointment, it’s not just a hassle for the physician and the practice –it can be a potential medical malpractice liability. But, how can medical practices minimize this inconvenience and risk? A recent article from AMedNews, titled, “If patients are no-shows, doctors should ask why”, addresses this topic nicely.

Document and Follow-up with No-shows

Are you saying, “Why? What’s the point?” There are several reasons that practices should contact their patients who missed appointments immediately:

1) It’s good business. Calling a patient gives him or her (and you) the opportunity to reschedule and it lets the patient know that you care and noticed his or her absence. It also gives the practice the opportunity to find out how the patient is doing and if a recent medical event is the reason for the missed appointment.

2) It may let you know that you have larger problems in your practice. Did you just lose a patient? Did a patient decide not to return to the practice? If so, this can give the practice valuable information and an opportunity to retain the patient and address any problems or reasons the patient had for leaving.

3) It may give you the opportunity to address a money issue. Some patients fail to show if they have an outstanding bill and/or are unable to make a co-pay. By calling the patient to find out why he or she missed his or her appointment, it may allow you to work out a payment plan that is agreeable to everyone and allow you to keep seeing the patient.

How to Curb No-shows

1) Remind patients the 21st century way. Many practices call their patients to remind them of upcoming appointments, but this may be yielding lower and lower returns. Quite simply, most people are utilizing their home phones and voicemail less and less and are relying on e-mail and text messages more. Voicemail messages may not get checked as often as other messages. Thus, practices should ask patients how they would like to be communicated with and act accordingly.

2) Charge for now shows. The article says that if a practice decides to enact this type of policy, it should allow for exceptions for true emergencies. And, the article suggests that it should only be used with patients who have a chronic history of missing appointments.

Investing a few minutes to find out why a patient missed his or her appointment can yield significant insight into a patient’s (or practice’s) situation, minimize liability and build a better doctor-patient relationship.

Katie Leander is a Writer & Content Strategist with, the leading provider of physician malpractice insurance in the country. You can find her on Google+.