Columbia University Medical Center

New Policies Aim to Cut Down on Practice-Related Cancellations

For most of the past year, ColumbiaDoctors’ practice cancellation rate has been stubbornly high–inching up to between 10% and 12%. “This includes both appointments that are bumped in IDX, and those that were cancelled where the reason is something within the control of our practices and providers,” said Kate Dauer, MHSA, director of patient access.

Two new policies, drafted by the Access and Patient Satisfaction Committee and approved by the Board of Governance, are aimed at bringing this rate down by ensuring that providers adequately notify departments and practices when time off or travel plans will require cancelling patient appointments.  

The “Notification of Provider Clinical Cancellations” policy states that any time off must be reported at least six weeks in advance. Any non-emergent time off reported within that timeframe that necessitates cancellation of clinical time must be signed off by the department chair, division chief, or department administrator using the notification form.  

The “Practice-Initiated Cancellations/Bump Process” describes the process for cancelling patient appointments and outlines the new appointment cancellation reasons added to GE/IDX, which will allow us to gather improved data.   

“There will always be emergencies and appropriate last-minute plans, but the goal is to minimize impact to patient care for plans that are made in advance,” Dauer said. “Cancelled appointments that are not rescheduled can mean lost patients and lost revenue. Rescheduling appointments involves staff time, which costs money, and negatively impacts patient satisfaction.”

In April and May, after the policies were first implemented, the practice cancellation rate dropped to 8.2% and 7.7%, respectively.  “It is too soon to know if this is a fluke or a trend, but we’re hopeful that adhering to these policies will help move us in the right direction,” Dauer said.