Eastern Health is implementing a new policy, effective Nov. 28, to address a high number of “no shows” to its adult ambulatory clinics and diagnostic imaging appointments.
Patients who miss an appointment - or who don’t cancel with sufficient notice of 48 hours - will be required to obtain another referral letter from their physician in order to be given a new appointment.
The health authority said in a news release about 1.6 million appointments are scheduled every year at its adult ambulatory clinics, sometimes referred to as outpatient specialty clinics. They include a variety of program areas, such as endoscopy, orthopedics, diabetes, and physician appointments, among others.
Statistics for 2015 - 2016 indi- cate that an average 11 per cent of patients either didn’t show up for their appointments or did not cancel them with sufficient notice. This equates to 176,000 missed appointments.
In some clinical areas, such as the outpatient specialty clinics at the Health Sciences Centre, Eastern Health said the number of annual “no shows” has reached as high as 5,000 in recent years.
David Diamond, president and CEO of Eastern Health, said “no shows” have a “significant” impact on both the organization’s resources and its wait lists.
“When a person doesn’t show at the appointed time, or doesn’t give sufficient notice, there is no time to offer that appointment to someone else, resulting in wasted resources of both staff and equipment.”
Additionally, Diamond said, the “no show” patient usually needs to be rebooked, which slows down the booking/appointment process overall. “Most importantly, it means a delay or lost opportunity for others on our clinical wait lists, who need to be seen sooner, rather than later.”
Eastern Health booking staff will make allowances for extenuating circumstances such as family emergencies, severe illness, a death in the family or severe weather conditions such as blizzards or hurricanes whereby weather warnings have been issued and/or nonemergency services have been cancelled.
In such cases, or with sufficient notice, Eastern Health said in its news release, the appointment would be rebooked without a new referral, on a one-time basis only.
A provincewide pilot project is also expected to reduce the number of “no shows” to clinical appointments. An automated notification system (ANS) is being piloted in the 12 Endoscopy Services Departments throughout the four regional health authorities.
Launched at Eastern Health on Nov. 9, its patients will now be notified by phone seven days prior to an endoscopy appointment, so that they may either confirm their appointment and make any required preparations, or cancel the appointment, allowing other patients to be booked in any unfilled appointment slots.
Eastern Health said it is also moving forward with plans to expand notifications to text and email options.
Delayed access to specialist clinics and other outpatient services because of ‘no shows’ can affect patient outcomes and influence demands on other parts of the healthcare system, said Elizabeth Kennedy, regional director of ambulatory clinics.
“Our priority is to provide access to clinical care as quickly as possible, and to reduce the cost of a missed appointment, not just in terms of organizational efficiency, but in terms of possible medical outcomes,” Kennedy said. “We understand that missed appointments are unavoidable at times; however, we need the public to partner with us to make the appointment process more accessible and fair for all.”
Information on the new policy can be accessed on Eastern Health’s website at http://www. easternhealth. ca/ OurService. aspx?d=2&id=2313&p=202.