A Human Voice Can Cut No-Shows, Study Shows

A computer-generated reminder telephone call can reduce the number of patient no-shows, but a human voice does even better, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Your . . . next . . . appointment . . . with . . . Doctor . . . Smith . . . is . . . on . . . July . . . 13th,” the computerized voice drones.

While this type of techno-call can reduce the number of patient no-shows, a human voice does even better, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. After tracking missed appointments for several months, researchers found that those patients who got a reminder call from a staff member were more likely to show up than those who got a call from a machine.

Machine-generated calls were effective in reducing missed appointments, the study shows. Of the patients who received computer-generated calls, about 17% missed their appointments, compared with 23% of patients who did not get any reminder call. But only 13% who got a call from a medical office staff member failed to show up for their appointment.

Practice-management experts maintain that the survey results don’t necessarily mean that calls by a live person are always better than automated calls. In a busy medical office, staff members may not time to make all the reminder calls, which could result in a higher no-show rate. The advantage of automated calls, they say, is that they always get done.

Economics can also come into play. The cost of having staff members make reminder calls is more expensive than computerized calls, but the difference may be offset if these calls can produce a more significant cut in the no-show rate.

You can read more about the growing practice of charging patients fees for missing or cancelling appointments here.