The Cost of a Missed Appointment

Jackson Steger
American hospitals, clinics, and health plans lose billions every year because of missed appointments

“Hospitals and healthcare organizations can play an important role in assessing patients’ transportation barriers and supporting resources to ensure access to care. That access to care includes not only securing the appointment but also the means of getting the patient to the doctor’s office, clinic, laboratory, or wherever medical care is being provided. By committing to solution for these transportation challenges, hospitals and healthcare systems are pledging to improve the health of the individuals and communities they serve.”
Linda Keller, DNP, RN, ACM-RN
Director, Clinical Advisory Services

In the United States, the cost of a missed appointment comes with a colossal price tag: $150 billion annually. Beyond the staggering financial impact of missed appointments, it’s also important to consider the toll they’re taking on both patient health and hospitals’ bottom lines. Many of these appointments are missed because of transportation barriers that patients encounter. Nearly 4 million people miss or delay a medical appointment because they can’t get a ride. Roundtrip was designed as a solution to this problem so healthcare professionals — care coordinators, social workers, nurses, and other transport requesters — can connect patients with non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).

For populations that are facing these access barriers, a missed appointment can have a ripple effect leading to higher attrition and poorer health overall health outcomes. According to the CDC, more than half of all adults in the US have a chronic disease (6 in 10), and 4 in 10 American adults have two or more. Failure to attend follow-up appointments for these populations can ultimately have dire consequences. Consider the cost of a missed appointment when cancer patients miss a round of chemotherapy, or kidney disease patients miss a dialysis appointment.

Transportation can also be a significant barrier for elderly patients who don’t drive and have to rely on friends and family for rides to the doctor. Seniors who seek to maintain their independence will always need access to the supports and services required to live as independently as possible. And with approximately 80% of older adults facing at least one chronic disease, and 77% facing two, access to reliable transportation plays an indispensable role for many seniors who are facing the realities of recurring appointments.

It’s also important to realize that every missed appointment causes serious logistical issues for hospitals. While the absent patients see their condition worsen, those absences simultaneously cause a delay in care for others. This means no one gets the medical attention that they need and outcomes get worse. It’s no surprise then that this all can have a significant impact on patient satisfaction. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, it takes an average of 24 days to schedule a first-time appointment with a physician. With people waiting over three weeks to schedule an appointment, missed appointments are causing our nation’s health system to lose billions of dollars every year while effectively leaving patients on the sidelines, and negatively impacting patient satisfaction scores. To top it off, when a patient doesn’t show up then hospitals + clinics lose out on expected revenue from that time slot.

According to a return on investment (ROI) study published by Florida State University, it’s estimated that every $1 spent on non-emergency medical transportation saves $11 in healthcare costs. Healthcare providers need to develop and maintain a transportation strategy to prevent unnecessary costs to the health system and create better care access overall.