My daughter works in a busy (hectic might be a better word) public-health clinic in New York State. It's a challenging patient base -- one with complex diseases and more complex life contexts for each patient. Even with those tricky conditions, these providers have had such extraordinary results that their practices are used as a model across the state.
That said, even her clinic struggles with no-shows. Providers will squeeze patients into an already overfull schedule, only to have that individual no-show the next day. Or a patient will be missing at their appointment time, but ask to be seen several hours later. It's difficult, but it's not surprising: the New York Times cites a no-show rate of up to 55% for most providers.
Non-compliance, of which patients not showing up for appointments, tests, or treatment is one variety, is always vexing for providers. It's not only frustrating, it can be dangerous. Plus, as the New York Times quotes American Medical News: “Medical liability experts say missed appointments and failures to follow up pose some of the greatest legal risks for physicians.”
Strangely, we've actually found this very human issue to be one solved by technology. Telemedicine has proven invaluable in helping with patient compliance issues, specifically this problem of making sure that the patient sees the providers she needs to, in a timely fashion.
So if no-shows are something you struggle with in your practice, here are a few ways that telemedicine can help make a difference:
- Patients struggling to travel to a specialist can still be seen. For instance, veterans are increasingly accessing therapy appointments via telemedicine.
- A telemedicine consult can mean fewer appointments. Rather than patients bouncing from provider to provider to "collect" perspectives, a store-and-forward telemedicine platform can allow providers to synch up without the patient having to make an extra appointment.
- Followup is integrated. As the New York Times article points out, providers are often too squeezed for time to be able to follow up with patients to ensure they do what they're supposed to. Telemedicine can create a simple way for providers to check in with each other and make sure (in a matter of seconds) that the patient followed through.
- Providers can communicate without hassle. When doctors aren't playing phone tag, it's less likely that things (like appointments or referrals) can fall between the cracks. Telemedicine can make it easier for providers to communicate how and when is most convenient for them.