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How Online Booking Helps Fill Last-Minute Cancellations

One of the more frustrating aspects of running a practice, regardless of specialty, is last-minute cancellations. Not only are these squandered appointments unfair to other patients who need an appointment, but they can also lead to significant losses in revenue.

Kenneth T. Hertz, principal of Medical Group Management Association, stresses that last-minute cancellations are a big issue in the industry. “In general, a practice might have a 5-7 percent cancellation rate and still be ok. However, if the cancellations exceed that, there is a problem. It creates loss of revenue and frustrated staff,” he said.

The Cost of Last-Minute Cancellations

Although it may be obvious that last-minute cancellations can hurt a practice’s business due to unused appointment slots, the true cost can appear in a few different ways. For example, sometimes medications or devices are purchased in advance for certain appointments. When last-minute cancellations happen for these, there can be an additional loss from that standpoint, as well.

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The problem can also ultimately result in patient leakage. If a doctor’s schedule often appears full when a patient needs an appointment, that patient may leave the practice altogether and move on to another one. “Patients who don’t have access to the practice when they need or want it, often will leave the practice and go to another one instead. Again, lost revenue,” Hertz said.

Last-Minute Appointments Booked on Zocdoc

The reality is that some degree of last-minute cancellations is inevitable. Although many practices choose to tackle this problem by charging last-minute cancellation fees, practices should also consider how they can fill these appointment slots as soon as possible. The best way to do this? Maximize availability by making these last-minute appointments bookable online.

Although Zocdoc enables practices to make all appointments bookable online, we wanted to take a deeper look into online booking behavior for last-minute appointments.  

When we analyzed our data, we found that more than a quarter of bookings made on Zocdoc, across all specialties, occur with 24 hours of the appointment. This percentage tends to increase for certain specialties that are more likely to have urgent appointments, such as chiropractors and internists. Specialties that care for children, such as pediatricians and family physicians, also see a more significant increase in last-minute bookings. On the other hand, specialties that typically have preventative care appointments, such as OBGYNs and dermatologists, are booked last-minute slightly less often.

The issue of last-minute cancellations is one the healthcare industry has battled for years. While making your practice schedulable online provides convenience and value for patients, it can also be an extremely effective tactic for doctors looking to fill last-minute cancellations. For practices looking to avoid losing substantial revenue from these cancellations, consider online booking solutions to maximize availability and fill those appointment slots 24/7.

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