It is no secret that missed or cancelled appointments, and the failure to follow up with or contact the patient may result in a serious delay in diagnosis or treatment. A well-defined process that includes patient notification and follow-up procedures will help ensure continuity of care and enhance patient safety.
In order to properly handle missed or cancelled appointments, it is recommended that:
1. There should be a formal process in place to follow-up with patients who have missed or cancelled an appointment.
2. Healthcare providers should be notified of all missed or cancelled appointments on a daily basis.
3. Healthcare providers should assess the clinical importance of the appointment, the severity of the patient’s medical condition, and the risk(s) associated with a missed or cancelled appointment in order to determine appropriate follow-up with the patients.
4. A follow-up telephone call from the healthcare provider to the patient may be necessary for patients at higher risk. The healthcare provider should emphasize the importance of follow-up care and the risks associated in failing to comply. This conversation should also be documented in the patients medical record.
5. If there is no response from the patient or the patient develops a pattern of not keeping or missing appointments, should be sent to the patient in order to advise the patient of the risk associated with non-compliance. A copy of the letter should be maintained in the patient’s medical record.
6. All efforts to contact the patient, either by telephone or in writing, should be documented in the patients medical record.
7. The continued failure of a patient to keep appointments may be considered non-compliance with treatment, and consideration should be given to discharging the patient from the practice.
Every healthcare provider should have a policy and procedure in place in order to address how missed or cancelled appointments by a patient will be handled.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq.
Stuart J. Oberman is the founder and President of Oberman Law Firm. Mr. Oberman graduated from Urbana University and received his law degree from John Marshall Law School. Mr. Oberman has been practicing law for over 30 years, and before going into private practice, Mr. Oberman was in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.
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