Follow your no-shows

November 1, 2006

When patients miss appointments, what should a practice do?

When patients miss appointments, what should a practice do?

Keep clear records and follow up, Pamela Moore, Ph.D., tells Physicians Practice Pearls newsletter.

No-shows can pose a significant liability risk. Patients who miss appointments and suffer injury as a result may have a viable lawsuit if they have evidence that their physician didn't give clear directions or make reasonable efforts to make sure the patient complied with the physician's advice, including keeping follow-up appointments, Dr. Moore says.

To be safe, she advises, keep clear, consistent records of missed appointments, and follow up on no-shows. If a very ill patient misses an appointment, every effort should be made to determine the reason as soon as possible.

Note in the patient's chart how and when you followed up. While follow-up calls can be time-consuming, they can also be well worth it if they prevent problems. Find out during the call why the patient didn't come in, and note the reason. If patients can't get access to your office fast enough and go somewhere else, you know you need to improve your procedures.

For more standard no-shows - and with patients who aren't particularly ill - you can print routine follow-up letters from the physician expressing concern about the missed appointment and asking the patient to call in to reschedule.