Cancels and no shows play a significant part in most physio and healthcare practices. Not only do they result in lost time and revenue for providers, but more importantly, cancellations mean patients aren’t completing their plans of care.
When addressing cancellations, many healthcare practices think they must establish a penalty or fee to mitigate the problem. They put all the blame on the patients and the practice believes that they need help with the cancel call versus taking responsibility for people not wanting to come in.
It’s not a patient problem, it’s a fundamental problem with how these practices approach empowering their patients to reach their goals throughout the patient lifecycle.
Cancellations will continue to happen until you go upstream and quit trying to solve problems based on business objectives instead of patient objectives.
Let’s take a closer look at the fundamental flaws with charging cancel fees and what you need to do instead to motivate your patients to arrive.
Cancel Fees Don’t Address the Root Cause of Cancellations
Thinking there must be a penalty in order to prevent cancellations is a complete disservice to the overall ecosystem of your healthcare practice. The call itself is a part of the whole ecosystem and needs to be investigated in order to better understand the health of this ecosystem.
If you’re focussed on preventing the cancel call at all costs instead of trying to understand what led a patient to cancel, then you don’t have an actual understanding of the patient’s journey.
To highlight the importance of thinking about your practice in terms of an ecosystem, I like to use the example of Zion National park.
As human traffic increased in the park, the cougar population migrated and caused the deer population to increase. This led to the cottonwood trees getting eaten up, allowing streams to wash away the top-soil and kill off the wildflowers. Without wildflowers, the butterflies were forced to migrate out of the area. And this led everyone to ask, where did all the butterflies go?
Without understanding all the chains of events leading to the butterflies disappearing, there’s no way to figure out how to bring them back.
The same goes for your patients. By trying to fix the cancel call, you are trying to insert more patients into your ecosystem instead of focusing on why they are leaving or how to keep them there in the first place.
You need to ask yourself, do you want patients who can arrive and thrive? Or do you just want to add more patients to a system that is broken to begin with?
Building an Effective Ecosystem Starts with Putting the Patient First
When it comes to patient calls, most people in healthcare use scripts that exist to meet business objectives instead of focussing on a patient’s needs. This is usually done by way of an intake form that provides questions the front desk needs answers for, but there’s a much better way to do this.
Remember, your patients have objectives when they call you. You need to understand what their own objectives and goals are before you ask for the information you need to meet your business objectives.
In order to make your new patient’s first phone call about them, you don’t need to change the questions you’re asking, you need to change the way you’re asking questions.
Instead of asking “Can I get your DOB,” you ask “Can I get your DOB to put you in our system and get you scheduled?”
This gives the potential patient an understanding of why you are asking these questions and how it benefits them.
Show them you care and are putting their needs before the business needs. You are providing a plan of care that will lead to a solution to their problem.
For more insight on the types of questions you should be asking, refer to our 10 point checklist.
Get Crystal Clear on Why the Patient Should Arrive and Stay
By the end of every new patient call, you must be able to answer these 5 questions:
1) Why will the patient arrive?
Ex: They are here to see Dr. Jane Doe, the expert who can provide a specific solution to their problem. (It’s important to use the Doctor’s name)
2) Why will the patient stay?
Ex: Because he or she knows they’re going to get a plan of care to achieve the results they want. It’s not about the pain, it’s about the destination the patient can’t get to because of the pain/issue standing in their way.
3) Do we know what the patient wants?
Ex: They haven’t been able to attend Crossfit and they want to get better so they can get back to a fitness routine that benefits them in many ways.
4) Did I focus the call on the patient’s needs?
Did you listen and respond to what they are trying to solve and what’s standing in the way? Did you repeat these things back to them and provide a plan of care?
5) Does the patient know the 3 most important things they need to know?
- The patient is scheduled with an expert – Who is a human being with a name and credentials to back their status as an expert.
- The expert the patient is scheduled with will tell them what’s wrong – People want to hear and understand what’s wrong more than they want to hear a diagnosis. With a diagnosis there is usually medical terminology that doesn’t ‘click’ with the patient.
- There will be a plan put in place to help the patient reach their desired outcome – People need to know what to expect and how they will get from point A to point B.
Motivate Patients to Arrive Instead of Punishing Them for Cancelling
You don’t need to threaten your potential patients to make them arrive, you need to explain to them how you are going to solve their problem and reach their objectives.
If they have a reason to arrive, they’ll cancel less. If they know it’s about them, they’ll arrive.
If they know they’re seeing an expert, they’ll arrive.
If they know the problem standing in the way of their desired destination will be resolved, they will arrive.
If you can answer why patients should arrive and why they should stay at the end of new patient calls, cancels will fall.
If you want to consistently answer these 2 questions, download this 10 point checklist.