Effort to reduce no-shows by education and penalties

When patients walk into the Stettler Medical Clinic, one of the first things they'll see is the number of patients who didn't show up...

When patients walk into the Stettler Medical Clinic, one of the first things they’ll see is the number of patients who didn’t show up for their appointments in the previous month.

The clinic is trying to draw attention to the no-show problem, as for every patient that doesn’t show up, it’s another patient who isn’t getting in to see their doctor, clinic administrator Maureen Drummond said.

“We took part in a program last year,” she said, explaining that the monthly meetings were designed to help clinics discover ways to improve access for patients to physicians. While there were many factors affecting access, one of the factors shared across the board between hospitals and clinics was the no-show patient.

Each participant shared how it tries to limit no-shows.

“Some clinics bill their patients for missed appointments,” she said. “Some will bill you after you miss a number.”

The Stettler Medical Clinic, she said, will send a bill after a person misses three appointments, and the bill will need to be paid before a patient can see a doctor at the clinic. However, that’s only after three no-shows.

“We have people calling for appointments who can’t get in,” Drummond said. “Then we’ll have a doctor who has five or six no-shows in one day.”

Those appointment slots could be used for someone else, so even a call the morning of the appointment is appreciated.

“We get it,” Drummond said. “Life happens.”

Last November, when the clinic had four doctors, there were more than 100 patients who didn’t show up for scheduled appointments. This past May, with the clinic now having six doctors, there were 99 no-shows.

“People think, ‘Oh, it’s just me,’ just one person,” Drummond said. “But those ‘one persons’ add up. Other people pay for it by not having access to their doctor, by having to tie up Emergency Department resources at the hospital. It’s a trickle-down effect.”

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