Missed Medical Appointments: Reasons for Patients No-Show

January 17, 2023

No-shows from patients who fail to show up at a scheduled appointment can lead to frustration for healthcare providers.

Most practices report no-show rates of 12%, but some report no-show rates as high as 50%.

When patients miss their medical appointment, the implications are detrimental to your practice and the patient. 

Patients' failure to attend medical appointments saps resources and waste every business's most valued asset, "time." Estimates show that patient no-shows cost the healthcare industry about $150 billion annually. 

Patients who miss doctor's appointments compromise the quality of care and risk undetected and untreated medical conditions. 

But who is to blame? What are the collective factors responsible for this unnecessary high rate of patient no-shows? 

Top 9 Reasons Patient's Miss Appointments 

Here are nine common reasons for a patient's no show 

1. Cost of care 

While the citizen uninsured rate has dropped massively over the years, there are still high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that patients will have to bear. 

This situation often puts patients between receiving the care they need and shouldering other financial responsibilities. 

Some patients will rather miss their medical appointment if it means they don't have to pay, particularly if they are undergoing a preventive care routine. 

Honesty will help in this situation. Helping your patient understand their insurance plans better and promptly knowing how much out-of-pocket expenses they will shoulder for their costs will build patient trust. 

Most of all, giving them unbiased medical counsel on which procedure requires medical attention and which they can push forward will allow them to make better decisions when taking appointments seriously. 

2. Patients don't deem it necessary to show up.

As some patients' schedule draws nearer, they may begin to re-access the importance of the whole routine in the first place. Therefore you must be explicit about an appointment and why they should come in. 

Suppose the office visit is meant to go over test results. It may not be necessary for the patient to come over for these as they could quickly obtain them via the patient portal or by scheduling a phone call.

Voicemails and emails are an excellent means of reinforcing the importance of showing up for their appointment. 

3. Patients dread lengthy wait times. 

It is usual for patients to wait before their providers attend to them. However, when they have frequent experiences of over-prolonged waiting times, it can drastically reduce their satisfaction and interest in future appointments. 

Over time, practices with better staffing structures have developed a reputation for fewer wait times amidst patients. The patients, in turn, are encouraged to honor their scheduled appointment. 

4. Patients forgot about appointments.

Patients can forget their scheduled appointment date. Especially when the date is far off, patients, like every other person, often have so much to do and often ignore their appointment date. 

This situation justifies the need for proper patient engagement with each visit. You might also want to inquire from them what method they would like to be reminded of their appointment with, whether it is via phone call, text message, email, or social media. 

Today, you can automate reminders via email or text and reduce the burden on your front office staff. 

5. Patients can't get through to your practice.

Sometimes, an emergency might arise, making a patient want to cancel or reschedule an appointment at the last minute. 

Suppose there is a lack of active communication channels between your practice and the patient. In that case, it will be impossible for your patients to notify you of their availability. 

A more flexible approach to solving this problem is by automating patient scheduling. Giving your patients the ability to book open slots online can reduce the rate patients miss medical appointments. 

6. Lack of transportation. 

Many patients rely on public transport to convey them to the healthcare facility on their appointment dates. And sometimes, a bus route might be closed; other times, they cannot walk themselves from the drop-off point to the hospital venue. 

Sometimes a friend who promised to drive them to the hospital on their scheduled date disappointed them at the last minute.

A realistic solution to this problem is partnering with reliable ride-sharing companies like Uber to pick up patients who indicate transportation services. This simple option can significantly reduce no-shows without adding any cost to your practice. 

7. Patient fear.

Patients who do not understand the care or treatment plan your providers have formulated for them might find themselves scared of the unknown.

A significant cause of this understanding bridge can be a language barrier—patients whose first language is not your language and cannot correctly comprehend your treatment plans. 

These fears often lead to their lack of interest in proceeding with the recommended medical procedures. 

Make your interactions with your patients more engaging and ensure they understand what you communicate to them. You can achieve this by explaining what they know by what you conveyed to gauge their understanding. 

8. Psychological factors.

Psychological conditions such as hostility, depression, hopelessness, or stress can contribute to patient no-show.

When a patient plunges into any of these conditions, they lack appreciation of the value of honoring a scheduled appointment and the negative impacts of missing it. 

On the other hand, when a patient's health condition seems to be improving, they might not be psychologically inclined to visit their provider for follow-up appointments. 

9. Patient's work obligations

It is no news that Americans spend more time at work than any industrialized nation today. The time and stress experienced at work can make them unable to attend their medical appointment. 

You can make things easier for your patients by considering their busy schedules. You might also want to reserve specific appointment windows for patients whose work schedules might prevent them from coming in during regular business hours. 


Missed medical appointments are a common occurrence. There are many reasons why patients may not show up for their appointments. 

However, there are ways to reduce the number of missed appointments. Patients should be aware of the consequences of missing their appointments and make a concerted effort to attend all scheduled appointments. 

Clinicians should also create a system that makes it easier for patients to keep their appointments. 

Missed medical appointments can have significant consequences for both the patient and the clinician.

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