Every day the national healthcare debate rages on in the headlines. While access to affordable insurance is certainly a worthwhile discussion, there is another healthcare crisis that no one is talking about: the growing number of healthcare “dropouts.” A healthcare “dropout” describes a person who, despite having reasonable access, decides to delay or forgo their healthcare. Not only is this phenomenon harmful to the patient’s health, but also healthcare providers cannot afford to lose these patients. So who are these patients, and why do they decide to play hooky on their health? A new study by ZocDoc and Kelton Global surveyed 2,000 Americans to get to the bottom of this national crisis.
Who Are The Dropouts?
Millennials top the list of groups who are withdrawing from the healthcare system. Millennials don’t have time for the antiquated healthcare system. Approximately 9 out of 10 young adults reported that they don’t schedule regular check-ups. Of the ones that do, only half of Millennials are likely to keep a scheduled appointment. Nearly twice as many Millennials cancel or reschedule well visits because they are “too busy,” compared to other patients. If members of this group experience difficulty when scheduling an appointment over the phone, they are twice as likely to “wait a few weeks or longer” to reattempt versus other patients.
Women are also becoming less engaged with their health, compared to men. Sixty-four percent of women describe the ability to manage their health as “a struggle.” Sixty-six percent of women would rather wait out an illness than see a doctor, and 46% say it’s easier to self-diagnose an illness than see a doctor.
Parents are also not prioritizing their own health. Between work and family obligations, parents just don’t have the luxury of planning their lives around doctors’ appointments. While 53% of parents would try to schedule a same-day appointment for a sick loved one, only 30% of parents would do the same for themselves. They are also three times more likely to cancel or reschedule check ups than other patients.
Why Are Patients Dropping Out of Healthcare System?
Life gets in the way. People are busy with work, family, and responsibilities. It’s no wonder people find it hard to fit healthcare into their schedules. When asked why they don’t schedule regular check ups, 17% of people say they can’t get out of work, 18% say they are unable to book appointments so far in advance, and 20% of people just plain forget. Of the patients that do schedule check-ups, most end up cancelling due to work commitments, family obligations, being too busy, and forgetting about the appointment.
Healthcare has become inconvenient. Patients want to get in touch with their doctor quickly and easily. Almost 20% of people say that when they need an appointment, it is too early or too late to reach the doctor’s office during business hours. Patients want to schedule appointments they can actually attend. Almost 30% of patients say they can’t get a last minute appointment, and most end up waiting an average of 18.5 days to see a doctor. Unfortunately, the flu doesn’t warn you months in advance.
How To Prevent Patient Dropouts?
Give patients more access to their doctors! The current process of trying and failing to make appointments isn’t working. Busy patients don’t have time to sit on the phone and rearrange their schedules just to ask their doctor a simple question. Using HIPAA-compliant direct communication services can prevent patients from dropping out of your care. Continuity of care outside the office will keep patients engaged, and keep your practice busy.
Make healthcare more convenient. In today’s world, hailing a cab with your arm is considered archaic due to apps like Uber. Why should healthcare be any different? Upgrade to online booking systems where patients can choose their appointment time and can book after-hours. When patients can schedule appointments on their own terms, you’ll have less cancellations. Offer Patients the digital access, if they can't find a relevant in-person appointment to see you.
No one is perfect—everyone forgets an appointment. Prevent no-shows by sending appointment reminders via emails or texts. You’re attendance rate will skyrocket.