How Behavioral Health Care Practices Can Reduce Missed Appointments - MedCity News

How Behavioral Health Care Practices Can Reduce Missed Appointments – MedCity News

Behavioral health providers face many challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is getting patients to show up for their appointments. In fact, according to industry research, approximately one in five patients do not show up for their appointments. Late cancellations and no-shows can derail a practice’s day, cost time and money, and hinder patient outcomes.

This is particularly important in behavioral health, compared to other medical specialties, due to the high frequency of patients in the office, often once or twice a month or more.

There are many reasons why patients do not show up for their behavioral health appointments. Some patients may feel like they are not ready to solve their problems while others may forget or have scheduling conflicts.

The nature of many mental health diagnoses can hamper clients’ efforts to attend therapy regularly. Those struggling with depression may lack motivation; socially anxious clients may back out of commitments at the last minute. Increased engagement, from initial communication to automated reminders, gives them space to mentally prepare and make loyal attendance more likely.

Whatever the reason, it is important that behavioral health care providers find ways to encourage their patients to show up for scheduled appointments. Here are some ideas:

Clear communication

Clear communication can help ensure that patients understand the importance of attending their appointments and what they can expect when they do. Providers should take the time to talk with their patients about why appointments are important and what they can expect during their visit. By taking the time to have this conversation, providers can help build trust with their patients, which can lead to better attendance, care, and health outcomes.

Schedule flexibility

Patients today want flexibility when it comes to scheduling. Practices offering online appointment booking through a computer or mobile device allow patients to ensure that their appointment date and time more easily fill their schedule. Also, if the patient knows they can reschedule an appointment if necessary, they will be more likely to attend. This can be especially helpful for patients who have busy schedules or need to see a provider outside of normal business hours.

Automate patient appointment reminders

Consumers are busier, more stressed and more distracted than ever. Automated therapy appointment reminders received a day or two in advance go a long way in reducing accidental no-shows.

Using electronic health record (EHR) software, practices can remind patients of appointments in a personal and timely manner. Built-in appointment reminder features can help by automating patient communications with personalized messages tailored to a specific practice. Automation makes it easy to send reminders at the right time and frequency, either by SMS or email, depending on the patient’s preference.

Message automation also improves front office efficiency and reduces the time of administrative staff by reducing the number of calls and emails they have to manage. Not only does automation reduce absences and save time, but it also helps ensure a steady stream of revenue and a full patient schedule.

While automated reminders can be a useful feature, they should be used strategically and timing is everything. If the appointment reminder is sent too soon, the patient may forget it. If sent too late, patients may miss the appointment altogether. Finding the right balance is essential and this will depend on the appointment frequency of the practice and the client. Firms should perform a test to determine the best schedule for sending reminders.

While automated reminders are convenient, they can also feel impersonal. To combat this, providers must include a personal message with every reminder. When writing messages, providers should include the patient’s preferred name, the date and time of their appointment, and the name of the doctor they will see.

Identify customer trends

Because automated reminders help avoid missed appointments, they give practitioners a better idea of ​​who is engaged in the therapy process, who frequently cancels, and who doesn’t show up even after awareness. Tracking these trends to see if cancellations or no-shows tend to follow a specific program, provider, or customer demographic is also helpful. If a program or provider suffers from high cancellation rates, the practitioner may need to intervene, assess why clients are discouraged and uninterested, and work to resolve the problem. If certain types of patients show uneven attendance, practitioners will know who to focus on for more careful follow-up.

The more patients appreciate and trust a practice, the easier it is to build relationships and keep them deeply engaged in the therapeutic process. And since reminders reduce missed appointments, patients benefit from regular therapy and move faster on their mental health journey. The sheer nature of dealing with a practice outside of appointments indicates that patients are actively involved in the process. Patients who feel like active participants tend to show better results.

Encouraging patients to attend their behavioral health appointments is critical for both providers and patients. By taking a few simple steps, practices can help ensure their patients receive the care they need while reducing unnecessary waste of revenue and time within the business model.

Photo: SIphotography, Getty Images

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