Many medical practices charge a fee for cancellations within 24 hours, ask patients to arrive early for their appointments (anywhere from 10-30 minutes) or have a policy and consequences for being late to an appointment.
None of those seem that unreasonable unless:
1. You (the Dr. office) have to cancel an appointment at the last minute. This happened to a friend of mine this week after she had already taken time off from work and planned her day around the appointment. Worse yet, when she went to reschedule, they couldn’t schedule a new appointment until next month.
2. The patient arrives early or on time as requested and has to wait well beyond the appointment time (sometimes an hour or more).
What happens then?
If not handled correctly, many of your patients will be on Facebook or Twitter (often while still sitting in your office waiting or exam room) venting their frustrations. They are no doubt angry and will share their negative experience with all of their friends and contacts with the click of a button. Sadly, I see these posts several times a week.
Maybe its time to re-examine your policies and come up with some positive actions you can take when these unforeseen incidents happen. Things like:
1. Establish procedures and timelines for how and how often to communicate with waiting patients, apologize and keep them updated on a situation.
2. Offer to order them lunch or provide a gift card to a nearby restaurant or coffee shop.
3. Send a personal, handwritten note within 24 hours, apologizing again and assuring them you do everything in your power to avoid such situations.
Most people are remarkably forgiving if they feel someone sincerely apologizes, cares and does something to make amends and prevent it from happening again. However, if they feel taken for granted, they will make sure others know how they were treated.