Clinic’s ‘no-show’ rate on the rise

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

4/19/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.-- -- Missed appointments have cost the Maxwell clinic $258,000 this year, and such "no-shows" have been on the rise since January, impacting other patients waiting for care and the clinic staff paid to treat them.

This is a concern for Col. Marina Ray, 42nd Medical Group commander, who sees the negative effects no-shows can have on other patients wishing to meet with their medical providers.

"Patients have expressed concerns about their inability to get appointments while we have other patients who fail to show for scheduled appointments," she said. "Our goal to meet our patients' needs is hindered if members fail to cancel or show for their appointments."

According to Ray, the clinic experienced a similar problem last year, seeing a 10.1 percent rate of no-shows in February 2012 and lowering it to 4 percent in December. The Air Force standard calls for only 5 percent of appointments to be missed.

This year, the clinic had 862 missed appointments. Each appointment costs the clinic $300.

Even though a patient fails to use the resources scheduled for their appointment, personnel, service contracts and utility costs must still be paid for.

Major Phillip Douglas, senior 42nd Medical Group practice manager, is in charge of collecting and reviewing such data and is concerned with the current trend and its consequential waste in resources.

According to both Ray and Douglas, patients should give the clinic the courtesy of a cancellation notice to allow another patient to come in during that time. They added that many patients do not realize how detrimental their lack of attendance to their appointment is on the clinic.

"When a patient does not show for a medical appointment, the impact is in triplicate," said Douglas. "First, the patient did not get the care they needed. Second, another patient could have been seen and treated in the appointment slot that was no-showed for. Lastly, medical staff must follow-up with the patient that no-showed and address their necessary medical problem."

Cancellation is the best way to avoid an appointment. The clinic has an appointment reminder system that notifies patients of upcoming appointments, allowing them enough time to cancel or reschedule. If patients have a MiCare online account, they can cancel their appointment securely from a home or office computer through a confidential messaging system.

Ray continues to share the negative impacts of no-shows with patients and staff in hopes of reversing the trend. Patients' cooperation is needed in order to help the 42nd MDG deliver quality health care, said Ray.

"Our patients can help us meet their health care needs by showing up for their scheduled appointments, cancelling or rescheduling appointments in advance if they no longer require the previously scheduled appointment," she said. "I'm a strong advocate of MiCare secure messaging; it's a convenient, secure way to interact with your healthcare team."

MiCare account registration forms are available at any 42nd MDG clinic desk.