No-shows at physician practices can disrupt the flow of a provider's days, and can cause financial difficulties. When a patient doesn't come in for a procedure, it can't be billed to insurance, leaving the patient responsible for the whole balance of treatment costs. Recouping this money may present difficulties. Practices that use cancelation fees may also have trouble obtaining them from patients.

Understand who isn't coming in
According to an article by medical practice consultant Ken Hertz, the first step to reducing no-shows is understanding why they happen. Physician practices should use analytics tools to determine which patient populations are not making it to their appointments. Furthermore, the average physician practice has a no-show rate of 5 to 6 percent, according to Hertz, and anything higher may indicate a serious issue.

"You have to identify what is causing it, what groups they are, if there are key themes that link them together," Hertz said. "Maybe many have a doctor that constantly runs three hours late and the patients give up."

Other reasons may include vague instructions for follow-up appointments or difficulties in a patient's personal life. Hertz recommends practices call patients who do not show for their appointments to determine why that is and to reschedule. A pattern of certain reasons can direct efforts to reform a practice's policies and procedures around scheduling.

Consider financial policy
According to Elizabeth Woodcock, of Woodcock & Associates in Atlanta, charging fees for missed appointments may not be the best strategy, either for patient satisfaction or revenue cycle management.

"You need to make sure you're doing a good job internally before starting to charge," she said to Hertz. "We want to see patients … the intention isn't to charge, but to make sure they show up."

If patients aren't coming to their appointments as a result of forgetfulness, perhaps because of a long time between scheduled check-ups, physician practices can use an automated phone reminder system. Of course, they can also elect to have administrative staff call and remind patients. A call at least two days before the scheduled appointment is best, and this can be used in combination with a text message on the day of the appointment itself. Hertz adds that it may not be a good idea to remind patients during these calls or text to be ready to pay a co-pay. This might lead to patients experiencing financial hardship avoiding the practice and failing to get the care they need.