How to Decrease No-Shows and Cancellations During COVID-19

October 29, 2020 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

At the beginning of the pandemic, 70 percent of patients delayed or cancelled in-person medical appointments due to government mandated shut-downs, cancellations of elective procedures, and fears over contracting the coronavirus.  Even after reopening, health systems have continued to experience high no-show rates and cancellations – and at what cost?  According to BMC Health Services Research, missed appointments can cost a single physician as much as $150,000 in lost revenue.  With recent spikes in states across the country and the start of flu season, patients may again opt to cancel their appointments, once again resulting in higher no-show rates and decreased revenue.

Learn How We Helped A Large U.S. Health System Increase Appointment Volume  During COVID-19.

Rescheduling cancellations and no-shows are not only critical for recouping lost revenue but also essential to ensuring patients receive the care they need. But how can health systems reschedule appointments when dealing with such a large volume of cancellations?  Here are three tips to help decrease no-show rates and cancellations during COVID-19.

Make Patients Feel Safe by Sending Reminders and Detailed Safety Preparations

One reason for no-shows and cancellations right now is due to patient concerns over safety. Patients want to know if their providers are doing enough to protect them from contracting the coronavirus. Healthcare organizations have high standards for sanitization and have even more stringent protocols now. However, it's important to communicate these standards and new protocols to ensure patients feel safe and prepared for their appointments.

A simple way to keep patients informed and updated on your COVID-19 safety protocols is through multichannel communication via text, email, and voice messages. In addition to sharing important information regarding your safety procedures, you can also communicate information regarding other safety measures you've implemented such as telehealth appointments or virtual waiting rooms. By proactively communicating how you're working to keep patients safe and engaged in their health, they will be more likely to seek care and attend their appointments at your healthcare facility.

Provide Telehealth as an Appointment Option

With approximately 46% of consumers now using telehealth appointments, it's become an expectation in the new patient journey and is a great option to help providers reduce no-show rates and boost revenue.  With virtual visits, patients can attend their appointments from anywhere, including their homes, their workplaces, or even their parked cars, thus decreasing the burden of making it to in-person appointments. As patients continue to shift from in-person appointments to virtual visits, health systems can further reduce access barriers by leveraging online scheduling to boost efficiency and cut down on inbound scheduling call hold times.


However, health systems should note that virtual visits are not one-size-fits-all and not the universal solution to no-shows. Patients with limited socioeconomic resources, limited Internet access, cognitive impairment, or other physical disabilities might not be able to use the technology required for a telehealth appointment. While some telehealth barriers can be overcome by proactive outreach and training in advance of the visit, in-person appointments will be necessary for some patients with needs that virtual visits cannot adequately address.

Streamline Scheduling Processes with Online Scheduling

Offering patients the option to schedule in-person and virtual appointments online has become increasingly important for health systems. Not only does it help automate scheduling processes, but your patients are also more likely to keep their appointments. With online scheduling, patients are given the control to schedule an appointment at a date and time that works best with their schedules. This can boost their engagement and increase the likelihood that they'll notify your healthcare organization if they need to reschedule or cancel.

Not only does online scheduling help to maximize schedule utilization by patients being able to grab open slots, but it also keeps patients from having long hold times as hospital inbound calls surge. And when a patient can cancel their appointment online, they are much more likely to do it sooner rather than later due to increased convenience. In fact, according to Mend Family, a mental health telehealth platform, patients are 50% less likely to cancel their appointment when they can self-schedule.


No-shows and cancellations will undoubtedly happen – that's just the nature of healthcare, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the age of the customer, providers can dramatically reduce their losses with new approaches that offer both them and their patients greater patient engagement, increased flexibility, and higher revenue for their organizations. To learn how we helped a large U.S health system increase its appointment volume during COVID-19, read our latest case study.

Learn how we increased appointment volume for a large U.S. Health System. Read The Case Study.

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