Q&A: Set Firm, But Flexible, Policies for No-Shows

Posted on 13 Jan, 2016 |comments_icon 1|By Chris Boucher

Experts recommend making exceptions for emergencies.

How to deal with no-show patients. It’s a frequent problem for many medical practices, and no-show best practices are a matter of constant debate.

Dilemma: On one hand, you want be fair to the patient. Practices have to be firm with patients as well, however, or no-shows will only increase.

To get a handle on how to deal with no-shows in the most balanced way possible, we checked in with Cyndee Weston, CPC, CMC, CMRS, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association (AMBA) in Davis, Ok.

Here’s some of her insights into dealing with patients who aren’t there when they’re scheduled to be.

Q: In general, what’s the best policy for no-shows?

A: “You need a fair, clear and concise policy explaining to patients what your requirements and expectations are for no-shows and cancellations. If you don’t have a penalty for missed appointments, patients will continue this behavior.”

“Once you have defined your policy, you should have patients acknowledge they have read it by signing a notification form that you can show them should they forget your policy.”

See also: Keep Consistent Copay Policies to Reduce Headaches

Q: A patient cancels three hours before his scheduled appointment. What should the practice do?

A: “Use good judgement when patients call within 24 hours or less to reschedule. Ask for their cooperation in helping you minimize lost appointment time by calling as soon as possible when they know they will not be able to make it.”

“Not all patients abuse cancellations and for them, you have to be accommodating. The policy is to prevent as many no-shows and cancellations as possible without alienating patients that have an occasional issue.”

Q: A patient doesn’t call or show up for his appointment. What should the practice do?

A: “Keep a note in [his] file and in your scheduling program so that you can take appropriate action should [he] try to schedule a new appointment in the future.”

“If it’s a case where a particular patient has no-showed before and you’ve already been lenient with them, you should not schedule a new appointment until they have made arrangements to pay the penalty for the previous no-show.”

Q: Should practices make any exceptions for patients who don’t show due to emergency situations?

A: “Absolutely. It’s bound to happen and you have to be flexible in these situations.”


Chris Boucher

Chris Boucher has nearly 10 years of experience writing various newsletters and other products for The Coding Institute. His blog will cover several areas of coding and compliance, including CPT® coding, modifiers, HIPAA compliance and ICD-10 coding.

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