Picking up from Tips to Improve the Financial Health of Your Practice (Part 1 of 2), here are some more actions you can take to cultivate a financially healthy practice.
While Part 1 includes mostly insurance tips, Part 2 focuses on payment and client policies that you can start using today!
6. Consider requiring a credit card to schedule an appointment
When you hold an appointment for a new client who doesn’t show up, it costs your practice money and wastes your time. These situations can have a big effect on your practice’s bottom line.
So, what can you do to increase the likelihood that your clients will show up for their scheduled appointments? One option is to require a credit card to hold the appointment. This may seem obvious, yet only 28% of respondents said they require a credit card to book an initial appointment.
7. Keep an updated credit card on file for no-shows and cancellations
When it comes to established clients, 66% said they do store credit card information for no-shows and cancellations. What we didn’t ask in this survey is “Are you actually charging these cards when a client no-shows? And if so, how much?”
According to a survey by MGMA, only about 25% of practices actually charge a no-show fee, usually between $25 and $75 depending on the specialty.
Collecting credit card information up front—and letting clients know that their card will be charged if they no-show for an appointment—helps solidify a commitment from the client. What does that mean for you? No more lost revenue for unanticipated gaps in your schedule.
Having a monetary penalty for clients who skip scheduled appointments may help your practice recoup some of the costs from an open appointment slot and/or deter patients from no-showing. However, as we discuss in Tip 10 below, appointment reminders should also be part of your plan to reduce no-shows.
8. Decide on a no-show/late cancellation policy and stick to it
Regardless of what your no-show policy looks like, it won’t benefit your practice if clients don’t know what it is. Communicating your no-show policy (both in writing and verbally) with a new client will almost always reduce no-shows. It also prevents clients from claiming they weren’t aware of the policy.
It’s also important to think about the way you communicate your policy. According to this article by Anthony Centore on thriveworks.com, it’s not enough to just say: “Let’s talk cancellation policy: I have a 24-hour cancellation policy. I will need to charge you for an appointment if you don’t give me at least 24 hours’ notice.” This statement is inadequate if you want clients to understand and remember your policy.
Centore argues that to be effective, your policy needs to be clear and memorable. He recommends using this great script when meeting with clients for the first time. It includes some powerful phrases such as: “I’m never upset with clients when they miss an appointment. I know that’s life. In return, my clients understand that scheduling an appointment with me is like buying tickets to an event. If you miss the event, it doesn’t matter why you missed it, or even if it was your first time, you can’t turn in your tickets for a refund.”
It also won’t benefit your practice if you don’t strictly adhere to your policy. While it’s okay to give clients a one-time pass, after that, enforcing your policy makes it clear that your time, effort, and services cost money.
9. Confirm payment information is up-to-date
Credit card information changes frequently as cards expire or as companies issue new cards due to suspected fraud or identity theft. Accordingly, the best practice is to validate credit card information every six months. You can do this when clients check in for their appointments or send them notifications via email or secure message to update their payment information through the Client Portal.
Another easy way to ensure a client’s credit card information is up-to-date is to use an integrated credit card processor, like Stripe. Here’s why: When you save a credit card on file if it expires, the card will continue to work even if the physical card gets replaced by the customer’s bank. Stripe works directly with card networks so that your customers can continue using your service without interruption.
As shown below, a little less than half (48%) of respondents said they rarely or never confirm whether a client’s payment information is up-to-date. Perhaps the majority of these SimplePractice customers use Stripe, which would automatically update payment information. Nineteen percent said they confirm once a year, and 34% said they do so every couple of months.
10. Send appointment reminders to clients in their preferred method
Another way to ensure clients know they have an appointment scheduled on a given date, at a given time, is to simply remind them. Sending an email, leaving a voicemail, or sending a text message can have a huge impact on reducing no-shows.
Yet, research suggests that you should ask which method of contact a client prefers for appointment reminders rather than just assume. The best time to get this information is when clients initially schedule an appointment. Do they want an email reminder or a text message? Or would they prefer receiving a phone call? By asking clients their preferred method, you increase the likelihood that they will see the messages and show up for their appointments.
Reminders help clients remember to attend appointments. They also give clients an opportunity to call and reschedule in a timely manner. When asked if they send appointment reminders, it came as no surprise that 83% of respondents said they do send reminders via email, phone, or text.
11. Consider offering Telehealth services
Video visits are a low-cost way to rapidly expand your practice, and they work well for many types of providers. And, now that SimplePractice offers an integrated Telehealth solution, it’s easier than ever to see clients over video.
For providers trying to get more clients, offering Telehealth appointments seems obvious because the pool of potential clients you can see over video is much larger than the clients that live within driving distance of your office.
Telehealth not only increases access, it also reduces costs for providers because when you remove the barriers from in-office visits (e.g., taking off work, getting childcare, driving to the appointment, even finding a parking spot), you also decrease no-shows and cancellations.
A little under half of respondents (46%) reported offering video appointments, but we expect this number to increase as providers realize the benefits and convenience.
Got a tip we didn’t include?
What do you do to improve the financial health of your practice? Share your tips in the comments below!
Get the top seven tips in one place with this handy infographic.
The Setting Your Practice Up for Success study is based on 1,201 SimplePractice customers in the U.S. and Canada. The data were collected between July 5, 2018 and July 9, 2018, via an online survey. The survey contained 18 items, and, on average, took 2 minutes to complete.