What day of the week are appointments most likely to be cancelled?

QueueDr is introducing a new series of blog posts based on our analysis of hundreds of thousands of cancelled appointments that QueueDr has helped automatically fill. After analyzing these cancellations we learned many things, some very surprising. These posts will provide insight on scheduling, optimization, patient behavior, and the crazy world of healthcare. Enjoy!

Wouldn’t it be grand if we lived in a cancellation-free world? A land where everyone honors his or her appointments and never requires reminders or threats of no-show fees? The reality is, people cancel, so the question is, how can practices prevent and fill them? We looked at hundreds of thousands of patient cancellations to find patterns that might benefit practices.

SHOCKING NEWS – People are less motivated later in the week.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn that people are more likely to cancel their end-of-week appointments. The table above shows a clear trend of increased cancellations as each day of the week passes. Appointments scheduled on Wednesdays are most likely to be cancelled, followed very closely by Thursdays. The one anomaly in this pattern is Friday, which has fewer cancellations than Wednesday and Thursday. However, fewer appointments are booked on Thursday and Friday than Wednesday.


To unearth some pearls of wisdom, let's look at the two parties in play…

The Patient:
We all know what it’s like to feel our top-of-week motivation wane as we inch towards the weekend. We are far more likely to make serious dents in our to-do list at the top of the week. There is extensive research supporting this hypothesis, with clear data pointing to Monday and Tuesday as the most productive days. That means that people are not only more likely to show up for their Monday and Tuesday appointments, they’re more likely to remember to cancel their upcoming appointments. Remember, these are cancellations, not no-shows.

The Practice:
If patients are at their most productive on Monday and Tuesday, then staff members are too! Front office staff are making more phone calls to patients to remind them of upcoming appointments on Monday and Tuesday. Since most practices call 24-48 hours prior to an appointment, it makes sense that those Monday and Tuesday calls are resulting in Wednesday and Thursday cancellations. That’s why we see so many cancellations on Wednesday and Thursday. Again, keep in mind that this data concerns cancellations as opposed to no-shows (no-shows are defined as appointments for which the patient doesn’t show up at all and gives no notice).

That’s great, but what can my practice do about it?

We’re glad we asked. Here are three thoughts:

  1. Tell patients looking to come in on short notice to call on Wednesday or Thursday morning. There is no better way for a practice to increase patient satisfaction than to accommodate short-notice bookings. Your patients will be thrilled to know that they are one call away from seeing their doctor.

  2. Tell patients who book on Wednesday and Thursday that more patients cancel on those days. Anticonformity is a well-documented phenomenon. People are less likely to do things if they know that most people do them. It’s reasonable to see how enlightening your patients to these herding patterns could inspire them to buck the trend.

  3. Many places recommend overbooking as a solution. We do not. Every time you incorrectly overbook, ie a patient shows up when you were not expecting them to, you create a bad situation for two patients. The negative value of those bad situations outweighs the positive value of higher schedule utilization.

Final Thought – Cancellations, at least they aren't no-shows!

Cancellations are a given at any practice, and while you clearly want to do everything in your power to avoid them, a cancellation is always better than a no-show. Cancellations offer practices opportunities to demonstrate flexibility (cancellers are treated with understanding, and rebooked), and dedication to their patients (those with distant appointments are offered an opportunity to see their doctors sooner). We hope our analysis helps your practice make cancellations work for you.

Founder of QueueDr

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QueueDr - Helping healthcare groups take back time through automation since 2013.