Effective Management | Appointment Cancellations

One of the things that practice administrators dislike about automated appointment reminder and appointment confirmation systems is that there isn’t always immediate notice when a patient cancels their appointment. In the case of simple appointment reminders, there is usually no feedback about a cancellation, mainly because most live reminders go to an answering machine and unless the patient calls the practice after receiving the reminder to reschedule, the practice doesn’t know if they will come or not. With some appointment confirmation systems available today, there is feedback to the practice of an appointment cancellation, but this is in the form of a report that is sent to the practice at the end of the day, at which point it may be too late to re-book that timeslot.

With Vital Interaction, practices are immediately notified via email whenever someone replies to an appointment confirmation saying that they cannot make their appointment. This means that the practice can take action in response to reschedule with that patient or book the slot with someone else. There is also a record of each cancellation, and therefore it’s possible to keep staff accountable for taking some sort of action for each one.

Practices using Vital Interaction get the benefits of an automated appointment confirmation plus the immediate opportunity to refill canceled appointments, thereby preventing revenue loss associated with appointment cancellations that otherwise would not have been filled.

How does it work?

Vital Interaction offers automated appointment confirmation messages over phone, text, and email. These methods are typically sent in a sequence, based on whether a patient has responded or not within a specified time window. With each of these methods, it is possible to offer the patient the option to cancel their appointment. However, the practice can also chose not to give this option and only give the option to reschedule instead.

With the automated phone confirmation, a patient can press the number 2 on the phone to cancel or reschedule. When they do so, they are connected immediately to the office.

With text messages, a patient can reply N to indicate that they are not going to make their appointment. With email appointment confirmations, a patient can click on a certain link in the email to do the same. In either case, the Vital Interaction system automatically generates a response (text or email, respectively) saying that the practice will try to contact the patient soon to reschedule. Then, Vital Interaction automatically triggers a phone call between the practice and the patient. Patients can still take the initiative to call immediately to reschedule.

In all of these cases, the immediate actions triggered by the Vital Interaction system allow for improved communication between the patient and the practice, and more effective appointment rescheduling.

Filling Canceled Slots

Once a patient notifies the practice that they won’t be able to make their appointment, either by proactively calling or by replying to an automated confirmation message, it is up to the practice to reschedule it. In the situations described above, the Vital Interaction system will immediately attempt to connect the patient and the practice over the phone. However, it is also possible that the patient does not wish to reschedule the appointment, and wants to cancel it entirely, possibly due to their condition resolving on its own.

In any of these cases, practices have a few options to re-book that slot on the provider’s schedule. With Vital Interaction, you could send a message to a group of people on a waiting list to indicate the newly available timeslot.

Here is a possible text message that could be sent to patients on a waiting list:
“An opening has showed up in the schedule at 3 pm with Dr. Smith in the practice. If you wish to be scheduled for this time, reply Y now.”

Alternatively, the message could simply provide the phone number and invite the patients to call in if they wish to take the newly available appointment slot.

The technology incorporated into Vital Interaction would also allow for an automated method to follow up with individuals in the waiting list, one at a time, in order to offer each of them a time period in which they can confirm the appointment. Although this functionality is not yet incorporated into the system, if you are interested in this capability, please contact us and we will discuss it with you.

Conclusion

Whether a patient cancels over phone, text or email, Vital Interaction will try to contact patient and practice as soon as possible, so that a new appointment can be rescheduled. And because an email is sent to the office administrator, and there is a way to track this online, they now have immediate insight into every cancellation and records of which appointments were canceled on a given day, and what action happened as a result.

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