The Cost of Patient No-Shows


Medical imaging is a very necessary but very expensive piece of the healthcare puzzle. So, what happens when a patient doesn’t show for a high-cost exam like an MRI or mammogram? A recent article by Aunt Minnie highlighted a study published in the September issue of Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology (Curr Probl Diagn Radiol, September 2018, Vol. 47:5, pp. 285-286), which found that uncaptured revenue for the most common imaging exams was about $700,000 per year at an average sized facility. 

That is just one average sized facility. Imagine $700,000 multiplied and increased by size across the country. What can facilities do to avoid “no-shows?”

The phrase “no show” places a lot of blame on the patient while facilities may want to consider assessing what they can do better to inform patients not only of their appointments but also what to expect during an imaging exam. Medical imaging can be scary; patients are often awaiting results that can be very serious. Medical imaging is also mysterious. Unlike a lab report, patients frequently never get to see their imaging or radiology reports and when they do, they are unable to understand the complex language used.

The solution to preventing no-shows is two-fold. First, make sure patients are receiving appropriate appointment reminders. Secondly, help patients to feel in greater control of their understanding of radiology.

Make Sure Patients Receive Appropriate Reminders

  • Send patients an email, phone call, and text reminder a week out and day prior to an exam. Be sure to analyze your facility’s population when doing this. Are you generally servicing a tech-savvy age group? Just an email generated from a patient portal and text may be all that is needed. Do you have many older patients? A phone call along with a text and or email may be best here. Does your population need English language help? Be sure to send reminders in more than one language or with the option to hear another language.
  • When confirming with patients, be sure to include how they should prepare for the exam and who they can direct any questions to.

Reduce The Mystery of Radiology

Offer Patients Access to Imaging Exams

Many patients are already keeping track of things like lab reports online.  According to a study we conducted of over 1,100 patients, only 17% of patients are able to easily access radiology reports and imaging. However, our study found that 80% of respondents said they would like to have access to their imaging alongside their imaging results. An image-enabled patient portal offers the opportunity for patients to access imaging exams and reports and also receive updates and reminders regarding their appointment.  Of course, it’s critical that patients are given a thorough explanation of images and results by a referring physician before they appear in any kind of patient portal.

Offer A Point of Contact

Facilities can offer the contact information of the radiologist who read the exam or that of the appropriate administrator so that patients may reach out with any specific questions following their exam.  Give the patient clear expectations of when to expect results, how to expect them (patient portal or call from referring physician), and offer a card with a name and number to call if any questions should arise. These simple steps can go a long way to ease the nerves of a patient. 

Consider Establishing Patient-friendly Reporting Language

Radiology reports are often filled with medical jargon that can confuse and stress patients. A patient should always receive a thorough explanation of imaging results from their referring physician. However, clear language can aid patients who have questions regarding the results of an ER visit or are seeking a second opinion.  Patient follow-up is a key opportunity to elevate the radiologist’s contribution to care and outcomes. A study of 6,851 patient reports generated at Boston Medical Center found that 33% of radiologist recommendations were not followed. Of those, 39% were not acknowledged in the referring physician’s notes, even though 43% were significant. It’s why in a patient-centered environment radiology is increasingly integrated into comprehensive patient care, and it means closing the loop as patients move to the next step in the process.  This means offering patients the opportunity to understand reports enough to ask questions regarding their own healthcare. 

Do you think patient no-shows can be reduced by better-educating patients?


Catherine Slotnick, Marketing Manager

About Catherine Slotnick

Catherine Slotnick is a passionate healthcare marketer with a deep interest in the latest & greatest in the Health IT space. As Ambra Health's Director of Marketing, Catherine primarily focuses on creating and sharing thought leadership content in the radiology and informatics space. Catherine graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Psychology & Art History. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking and petting dogs that aren't hers.

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