Charge Late Fees for Missed Appointments?

What do you do when clients don’t show up for scheduled appointment?  Rob May’s new doctor has a pretty good idea:

A few weeks ago I started going to a new doctor, and was made to sign a document explaining their late fee policy. It was unique. If you miss a scheduled visit, you are charged a $20 fee. If you are late by more than 10 minutes, that qualifies as a missed session. But the doctor’s office doesn’t keep the money. All money from late fees is donated to the local children’s hospital.

I haven’t missed a visit, but if I did, I can’t imagine arguing with the penalty. I think it’s brilliant. It turns the debate from a me vs. them fight for my money to a decision about whether to give money to a third party charity. In essence, it diffuses customer anger while still imposing a penalty. It reminds me that innovative solutions to business problems do exist, but they sometimes require you to step a little bit outside the lines of conventional wisdom.

6 Responses to Charge Late Fees for Missed Appointments?
  1. Daniel Quackenbush
    June 27, 2006 | 4:11 pm

    That is a good plan except it should work both ways. With rare exceptions, I have never had a doctor get me in on time.

  2. Bruce Lewin
    August 7, 2006 | 1:06 pm

    People in the UK have been talking about this… the problem comes from collecting the money surely?

  3. callie
    January 16, 2007 | 9:51 pm

    I run a surgical clinic, and I can’t tell you how many times a new consult for surgery decides to cancel his or her appointment. The problem is that they’ve taken up time. We’ve had to check with their insurer to determine eligibility and also any copayments or deductible, we’ve taken all their demographics over the phone upfront (because we run a paperless office), and we’ve arranged to have their records or test results sent in. When a patient decides not to show up the problem is we’ve spent a lot of time preparing for their visit, which translates into staff time, which after all, is money. The other problem when they cancel is that they’ve taken up the time that could have been given to someone else who is equally or in greater need of requiring an operation. That’s right. There’s a list of people who need to get in, and by blowing us off, you’ve inadvertently delayed someone else’s consultation and also their surgery date. So we charge a fee of $75. And we tell them over the phone, and we keep record whether or not they agree. If they don’t, we don’t book. Plus we send them a confirmation postcard and it’s on there. It’s also on our financial policy statement, which each patient receives. There are many reasons for a doctor being late. Perhaps the person(s) before you needed more time than had been expected, maybe they had a complication, perhaps they came in and as it turns out need to be booked into the hospital right that moment. Sometimes, the doctor was in the OR (Operating Room) at the hospital, and THEY were late. His operation got pushed back, hence he’s running late for clinic. Or perhaps in the OR, they’ve discovered the operation is far more extensive than they had anticipated. So it takes more time, the doctor has to write orders and he has to break the news to the patient.

    Just remember this: It could be you or a loved one in there, and you’d want us spending more time with you if it were.

    However, when this happens the receptionist should tell you, Dr. B is running late. I can either reschedule you or you can wait.

  4. Rich Allen
    April 24, 2007 | 11:06 pm

    It is my experience from a life time of being diabetic with almost every complication there is that doctors are very rarely late due to being in the OR, ER or otherwise taking care of a patient in need. They are late due to taling on the phone making flight plans for their next vaction, setting up a tee time or just never learned to tell time. What the industry needs is a standard fee for both doctors and patients who are late or skip appointments. I know many doctors who expect to be paid a missed appointment fee but can not imagine that it could ever work the other way around. Patients should no longer tolerate being put off unless the doctor can prove they were attending to an emergency otherwise it needs to affect their bottom line.

  5. Joe
    November 27, 2007 | 9:28 am

    What if I was a doctor as well, and I got stuck in the OR, ect. Is my reason more justifiable now? So if my specialist is late and I must reschedule he should pay me, right? Now what if I am a poilice officer, a priest, or a lawyer? You see where I am going with this right?

  6. julia
    November 17, 2008 | 10:19 am

    i love it!

    like Daniel says, lets do it both ways. if the doctor is late 10 minutes he will give me $25!!! :-)

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