Q&A: How to handle a chronically tardy patient

March 20, 2009

Are there any steps I should take before dismissing a patient who repeatedly shows up late for appointments?

Q: I have a patient who repeatedly shows up late for his appointments, and it throws the rest of my schedule off. I've mentioned this to him, and he was still late for his most recent visit. Are there any steps I should take before dismissing him?

A: Never let tardy patients delay you from seeing patients that are on time. There are a few options you can try to correct a tardy patient's behavior. You may want to try scheduling appointments with the tardy patient an hour before you expect to see him, and let him wait for you instead. If you think you can change his behavior by penalizing him, use progressive discipline, starting with warnings and moving to fines for missed appointments. If you decide you must dismiss him, remember to provide a 30-day notice of termination to give him time to find another physician.