4 ways your healthcare organization can ensure continuous patient care

February 7, 2024


Ensuring that patients take full advantage of the care available to them is essential for their health and for the health of your business. Even failing to keep just one appointment with a primary care doctor can make patients 70% less likely to return within 18 months. These disruptions also come with a high financial cost, with one study indicating that no-shows cost a single-physician practice $150,000 annually on average.1

When patients don’t show up for their appointments, they don’t get the care they need, and your organization may struggle to fill last-minute scheduling gaps and make up the lost revenue. And if you participate in any quality programs, no-shows can quickly turn into the kind of care gaps that decrease your quality scores and reimbursement.

So, how do you encourage patients to make — and keep — the appointments they need, and follow their care plan? We recommend taking the following steps to help improve clinical outcomes and strengthen your revenue and reimbursement potential:

Make scheduling easy and flexible for patients

Your patients have come to expect a level of digital fluency from their providers, with more than 60% of healthcare consumers expecting to be able to change or schedule a healthcare appointment online.2 If you want patients to show up for the appointments they need, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to schedule appointments in the way they prefer.

Allowing patients to self-schedule can help increase patient engagement. At one cardiology clinic, implementing self-scheduling helped reduce patient no-shows, and the office manager said it gave patients “flexibility, convenience, and a sense of ownership over their health and their schedules.”3

Research has shown that appointments made farther in advance are more likely to be skipped,4 so leave room in your patient schedule to account for this. Make it easy to schedule appointments in the near-term, so patients aren’t forced to go elsewhere when they’re looking for care. Giving patients flexibility in scheduling care during moments when they’re in need may ultimately help fill gaps in your schedule, improving efficiency and revenue.

Use telehealth to meet patients when and where they prefer

Meeting with a clinician from the convenience and comfort of the home can make it easier for patients to make and keep appointments, particularly if they have mobility issues or difficulty getting time off from work. Patients who used telehealth had an average of 3.8 more annual visits in 2020 and 2021 than those who did not see clinicians virtually.5

Telehealth can also allow you to expand appointment availability throughout the week, especially for last-minute appointments that inevitably pop up. Quick telehealth visits, scheduled and carried out on the same day, are one way to help fill gaps in your schedule, while offering patients the care they need.

Additionally, telehealth makes it easier to create regular touchpoints with patients who have chronic conditions, especially when combined with remote monitoring. Imagine getting an alert from your diabetic patient’s insulin monitoring device about a spike in blood sugar levels. You could set up a quick telehealth check-in with the patient to see what they ate that day that may have contributed to the increase. If you were relying solely on in-person visits to your office, the patient might not have been able to get the help they needed. In this way, telehealth enables you to maintain close relationships with patients and ensure continuity of care.

Leverage interoperability to form the best possible care plan

When you’re assessing a patient and deciding on the best course of action for their care, interoperability is essential. Clinical data exchange enables a holistic, real-time view of the patient and without interoperability, the patient data you’re reviewing might not be complete or accurate. As a result, you may lack a wholistic view of the patient’s history of care, list of medications, or care plan, leading to other issues down the line. Interoperability and clinical data exchange help to prevent these inefficient and possibly adverse events.

Interoperability can also enable you to be more proactive during patient encounters. With the right data, you can spot patterns to keep patients engaged in their care and identify any red flags. Getting ahead of potential obstacles for patients could help ensure patients get the care they need. While sending upcoming appointment reminders can be helpful, knowing when to send these reminders and to which patient requires interoperability.

Engage patients in their care through consistent communication

Helping patients actively engage in their care improves their health outcomes, and it also helps your bottom line. Engaged patients are more likely to attend routine appointments and necessary follow-ups, which helps your office run more efficiently and can help head off issues that would turn into more costly core down the line.6 Using the right data and tools, you can send relevant resources, care tips, and treatment instructions to patients.

Online patient portals are an effective way to keep lines of communication open and have been shown to improve medication adherence, chronic disease management, and patient retention.7 Online portals enable patients to easily track and manage their care in one place, with the ability to access test results and after-visit notes, refill prescriptions, send secure messages to their providers, access educational materials and webinars, and more.8 By making all of this information accessible to patients, portals can help reduce calls to your office, keep costs lower, and help you grow your practice.

Making sure patients get the care they need often means meeting them where they are, with easy scheduling options and care delivery options. By giving patients the power to engage with their care on their terms and in ways that fit best with their lifestyles and preferences, you gain a more holistic, continuous view of their health, which enables you to provide more effective care.

Ensuring continuous care can help build a stronger, mutually beneficial partnership with your patients — as they reach their care goals, your organization will be more likely to see improvement on quality programs and potential reimbursement, creating stronger relationships with your patients overall.

Interested in learning more? Try these related topics:

Telehealth begins to fulfill its promise

Engaging patients pre- to post-visit

  1. Becker’s ASC Review, March 2019. The $150B repercussions of patient no-shows – 5 statistics.
  2. 2021 McKinsey Provider Customer Experience Survey.
  3. athenahealth, March 2023. Opening the digital front door - patient self-scheduling is a ‘win-win’ at Pensacola Cardiology.
  4. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, November 2018. Data Analytics and Modeling for Appointment No-show in Community Health Centers.
  5. Based on athenaOne data: All appointment records for 97.3 million patients who attended at least one appointment between January 1, 2019 and April 30, 2022.
  6. Journal of Patient Experience, September 2022. Impact of Patient Engagement on Healthcare Quality: A Scoping Review.
  7. Journal of Medical Internet Research, December 2020. Capturing the Impact of Patient Portals Based on the Quadruple Aim and Benefits Evaluation Frameworks: Scoping Review.
  8. JAMA Health Forum, 2023. Ensuring Equitable Access to Patient Portals—Closing the “Techquity” Gap.