Better late than never? In the medical industry, running a practice means managing and following a strict schedule that primarily consists of patient appointments. But the thing about patient appointments is that if one doesn’t go as planned, it can bleed into the rest of your day. This domino effect has an impact on your productivity and profit.
So this begs the question – how should medical practices manage late patients? In this article, we’ll tell you exactly how you can deal with this annoying situation so that you won’t have to worry about catching up on delays and focus on delivering high-quality patient care!
Set an Example
In reality, patient tardiness is unavoidable. But to minimize this reality, you should always be on top of your schedule. Sure, you can’t control your patient’s time, but you control how you manage yours, so take the lead and diligently show up on time. In that way, you not only avoid negative sentiments from patients who show up early, but you also add a reason why patients shouldn’t be late – because your time is just as valuable as theirs.
If you know the patient care process of your practice, you have a solid idea of how early a patient needs to arrive so that they won’t have to stay later than planned. Some considerations you need when making a policy include how long it would take them to fill out the forms, get the necessary treatment, and pay their fees. Once you figure this out, let them know your policy before they book an appointment. Remember, awareness is crucial.
Communicate the Importance of Being on Time
The reasons why patients are late can range from heavy traffic to personal struggles. Regardless, take the time to explain why they need to arrive on time. Doing so will help them understand their role in ensuring that the practice operates efficiently and provides the best patient care possible.
Strategically Plan Your Day
Often, patients have the luxury of selecting their appointment, whether the earliest available or the one that works best for them. However, when you have a repeat patient who can’t arrive on time, consider scheduling them later in the day. This way, other patient appointments will not be affected by their tardiness.
Avoid Penalizing Tardiness
The general idea is that when a patient knows there is a fine for being late, they will go out of their way to avoid penalties by showing up early for their appointments. But in reality, all that this does is promote even more tardiness. How? It helps patients justify not showing up on time because they know they can pay a fine and show up late either way. Even though it sounds promising, don’t charge your patients for tardiness because it can work against you.
Listen and Empathize
Even though dealing with late appointments is annoying, patients often have a legitimate reason for failing to show up on time. Part of providing quality healthcare is ensuring your patients feel understood. So when they explain why they were late, actively listen and show compassion.
Empathizing isn’t so you can excuse them but so you can build a better relationship with them. When your patients feel heard and not antagonized, they’ll be motivated to do their part by showing up when needed.
Kickstart Appointment Reminders
A Kansas Journal of Medicine study conducted in 2019 showed that one of the reasons patients arrive late to their appointments – or miss them entirely – is because they simply forget about it. This finding is good news because forgetfulness is something your practice can assist them with. Have someone call or send them a text message a few hours before their appointment. That way, they won’t forget about it and will have enough time to prepare.
Can One Manage Patient Tardiness?
When running medical practices, some doctors wear multiple hats at once to meet the various demands – a wholly unnecessary compromise. Indeed, diligently meeting scheduled appointments is essential, but you don’t have to shoulder this all by yourself! Many practitioners trust their staff members to accomplish tasks on their behalf, including effectively scheduling and managing patient appointments.
To answer the question, yes – you can manage patient tardiness and not let it affect the rest of your day. You just need to play your cards right, such as communicating and establishing a connection with your patients, delegating tasks to your in-office or virtual medical assistant, and creating game plans to reduce their tardiness.