What Is the Best Approach to Handling Patient Cancellations?

Callie Norton
March 28, 2024
min read

Blog At-a-Glance  

  • Patient cancellations and no-shows cause significant revenue loss, up to $150,000 annually for single practices.  
  • Digital waitlist management, like Doctible’s EasyFill, efficiently backfills cancellations, saving time and improving patient satisfaction.  
  • Practices using EasyFill see a 44% increase in filled appointment slots, recovering up to $60,000 in annual revenue.
  • Doctible's automated patient engagement tools, including the Patient Communicator and Smart Messaging, reduce no-shows and streamline communication.  
  • Automation improves patient engagement, strengthening patient-provider relationships and increasing show rates.  

How to Combat Patient No-Shows & Recover Thousands in Lost Revenue  

Patient cancellations and no-shows happen, but what can you do to prevent them? After all, you can’t sit idle — they cost you more than you may realize.  

According to a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) poll, lost appointments cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually. A single practice can lose up to $150,000 per year.  

The same poll also revealed that no-shows are the largest appointment challenge providers face. That means many practices suffer these financial consequences without a solution.  

Thankfully, your practice can effectively overcome the challenge of lost appointments. Below, we’ve outlined what you can do to combat cancellations and save thousands in revenue.  

Why Do Patients Cancel Appointments?  

First, it’s important to understand the root of the problem. Whether they’re dealing with personal or last-minute obligations, patients cancel appointments for many reasons:  

  • Forgetfulness (the most common)  
  • Traffic delays  
  • Weather problems  
  • Family and work obligations  
  • Concerns about wait times  
  • Issues with insurance and cost

Regardless of the reason, your approach to lost patient appointments can deal serious financial and operational damage. Every cancellation means extra time rescheduling appointments, managing waitlists manually, and handling disruptions in patient care and practice workflows. And, if you’re not careful, such operations can harm your reputation — causing you to lose even more revenue.  

Moreover, addressing the root cause of missed appointments lies in your practice’s ability to communicate quickly and proactively.  

In short, handling patient cancellations comes down to one central component: digital tools.  

The Best Approach to Cancellations: Digital Waitlist Management  

If you’ve never heard of a digital waitlist, now’s the time to start using one. It can help you fill cancellations and saves valuable admin time.  

What Is Digital Waitlist Management?  

Digital waitlist management streamlines appointment scheduling by alerting patients to available slots. It is particularly useful for last-minute cancellations. It helps patients by sending them instant notifications to book appointments, reducing the need for manual calls.

Fill last-minute openings quickly with EasyFill.
Fill last-minute openings quickly with EasyFill.

Many providers continue to use paper to manage their practice’s patient waitlist. But that comes with tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks. It also increases the chance of errors and makes it difficult to quickly fill canceled slots.  

EasyFill, Doctible’s digital waitlist management tool, automates the process so you don’t have to rely on paper. It allows you to proactively fill schedule gaps, backfill cancellations efficiently, and schedule appointments easily.

With EasyFill, you can:  

  • Set up a tailored contact list based on appointment type or provider preferences.  
  • Automatically send text messages and voice reminders about available appointments following cancellations.  
  • Enable patients to instantly book open slots directly from the message, removing the need for time-consuming phone calls.  

For example, if a patient cancels a same-day appointment, the system sends notifications to patients on your waitlist. One of them receives the alert, quickly claims the available slot, and your schedule stays full.  

Plus, EasyFill's efficient backfilling capability allows you to rapidly fill schedule gaps. It significantly reduces the administrative workload, freeing up staff for other important tasks. At the same time, it provides patients with convenient scheduling options. It improves their satisfaction and likelihood of returning for future care.  

Providers using EasyFill have been able to fill 44% more canceled appointments. If practices lose $150,000 annually to no-shows, EasyFill could help them recover over $60,000 of lost revenue.    

Eliminate Cancellations with Automated Patient Engagement  

Along with employing a digital waitlist, there are other ways you can prevent patient cancellations and no-shows efficiently. Automated patient engagement tools can help you communicate to ensure patients arrive to appointments on time, every time.  

Eliminate no-shows with automated appointment reminders.
Eliminate no-shows with automated appointment reminders.  

Doctible offers many communication tools to optimize your schedule and enhance patient engagement:  

  • Patient Communicator acts as a central platform for all your patient interactions, streamlining messaging and appointment management.  
  • Automated Voice and Patient Reminders keep patients informed and reduce no-show rates by ensuring they remember their appointments.  
  • Smart Messaging allows for personalized, automated conversations based on individual patient needs and appointment types.  
  • Traffic Alerts provide patients with real-time updates and directions for punctual arrivals and a smoother schedule.  

By integrating these features into your practice, you can expect a consistently full schedule, patient loyalty, and higher revenue.  

How Does Automation Improve Patient Engagement?  

Automation in patient communication might sound impersonal, but it's quite the opposite.

Automating tasks like appointment reminders and follow-ups frees up staff to focus on important personal interactions.

Personalized reminders and follow-ups resonate more, engaging patients with their healthcare and strengthening connections with providers. With quality patient engagement, patients are more likely to return to the practice — and show up for their appointments.


Terry and Dana from PDoctible’s tools help providers to deliver a more personalized care experience.
Terry and Dana from Potomac Psychiatry explain how Doctible helps them deliver a more personalized care experience.

Outsmart Patient Cancellations & No-Shows

If you're struggling with cancellations, don't let them stop your practice from reaching its full potential. With Doctible's scheduling systems, you can transform how you manage appointments and communicate with patients. From seamless digital waitlist management to personalized reminders and alerts, Doctible's essential tools reduce patient no-shows, improve patient satisfaction, and reclaim substantial revenue.  

Don't just manage cancellations — outsmart them with Doctible.

Learn how Doctible’s cutting-edge patient engagement tools can keep your calendar full. Schedule your demo today and see the difference for yourself.  


Armstrong, T. (2021, March 3). No Show Appointments: Why They Happen and How to Reduce Them. Medical Group Management Association.  

Dentist Combats Appointment Cancellations with Doctible’s EasyFill. (2023). Doctible.  

Ofei-Dodoo, S., Kellerman, R., Hartpence, C., Mills, K., & Manlove, E. (2019). Why Patients Miss Scheduled Outpatient Appointments at Urban Academic Residency Clinics: A Qualitative Evaluation. Kansas Journal of Medicine, 12(3), 57–61.

Callie Norton
March 28, 2024

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