Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

What To Do About Patient No-Shows at Your Radiology Practice

Published on the Dec. 19, 2011 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

It can happen to any practice. You have a full patient load scheduled for the day, but then a patient — or two — doesn’t show up for a study. Suddenly, not only is your schedule thrown off, but you’re also out the cost of any supplies dedicated to that appointment.

Patient no-shows have long plagued the industry, according to experts, with anywhere from 1 percent to 20 percent of patients either failing to cancel or simply failing to appear for scheduled visits. Anecdotally, radiology leaders estimate most practices have between a 2 percent and 5 percent no-show rate, and these absences can cause significant problems, they said. The Medical Group Management Association puts the national average for all specialties at 5.5 percent.

“I do think patient no-shows can be a tremendous disruption to practices,” said Christine Mayo, vice president of operations for PremierScan, a San Jose-based MRI/CT imaging center. “Some practices consistently see offenders from the same payer source or referring physicians. Regardless of the reason, it’s a great hassle.”

Why Patients Stay Away

A 2004 Annals of Family Medicine study pointed to three main reasons why patients don’t show up to see their providers. Some harbor negative feelings about seeing a doctor; others feel the clinic staff doesn’t respect their time and emotions; and many don’t understand the havoc a missed appointment can wreak on a practice.

But Casey Wheeler, a mobile PET/CT technologist with Idaho-based IsoScan, LLC, chalks a significant portion of patient no-shows up to one factor: human nature.

“People are afraid of bad news, so they operate on ‘If I don’t deal with it, then it’s not there,’” Wheeler said. “Many people don’t show up because they feel like they take back some control over their lives if they don’t get the test done. It doesn’t make sense.”

Others, he said, may view the studies as unnecessary. Those who have undergone repeated scans often contend an additional test won’t show anything new and opt to skip it.

The current economic climate also plays a role in many patients’ healthcare decisions, practice management consultant Elizabeth Woodcock wrote in a column for Medscape News. Lack of insurance or an inability to pay medical bills could push patients to forgo preventive services or delay elective procedures, such as diagnostic imaging tests.

What Happens When Patients Don’t Show

A practice with a daily (and common) average of four no-shows stands to lose nearly $150,000 annually, according to a 2009 Physicians Practice article. While all radiology practices feel the financial pinch when patients miss appointments, nuclear medicine practitioners are often at the greatest financial risk, Wheeler said. Unused radiopharmaceuticals, he said, can’t be used for studies at a later date. It’s a medical supply and money down the drain.

To read the remainder of the article: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/content/article/113619/2008579

 

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December 20, 2011 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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