Nathalie, doctor, disillusioned by patients who do not show up for appointments: “Others could have taken their places”
“Of 70 patients who had an appointment in September, 12 did not show up, or 17%, this is unacceptable”. Nathalie is a doctor and decided to press the orange Alert us button. She wishes to point out the significant number of patients who do not come to their medical appointments, without warning. For this neuropediatrician, these absences impact the care of other patients, who themselves wish to obtain an appointment quickly.
Strongly solicited, more and more doctors complain about a recurring phenomenon: a certain number of patients having made an appointment do not honor it, but especially, do not warn upstream. This is particularly the case of Dr. Nathalie Mercier, neuropediatrician at CH Jolimont, in La Louvière. “In September, out of my 70 scheduled appointments, 12 patients did not come, without warning”, she explains. “Imagine if everyone did that!“
If these unjustified absences are annoying for the doctor, they are all the more so for the other patients. “We receive a lot of requests for appointments, people who really need a consultation. If these people warned, others could have taken their places, and the waiting times would simply be shorter.“.
Specialist doctor, Nathalie Mercier puts her finger on this problem that is even more disabling for her patients. “We are not 200 to do neuropediatrics in Belgium. The waiting lists for my colleagues are also very long and these absences are all the more frustrating“.
Same observation with the unions
On the side of the Belgian Association of Medical Syndicates (ABSyM), the observation is the same, and we also deplore it. “Physicians already have a fairly heavy workload, in addition to administrative work. Their schedules are framed, and these non-cancelled appointments upset them“, explains Gilbert Benjjani, anesthesiologist and vice-president of ABSyM.
To be able to quantify the problem, the union recently offered its members an online survey, inviting them to explain how much patient absenteeism affects them in their work. This survey shows that no average of 86% of doctors find this phenomenon “disturbing” for the organization of their practice.
In detail, for 40% of the doctors questioned, these “no shows” represent 5 to 10% of their appointments. Worse, for 20% of them, this figure rises to more than 10%, ie one in 10 patients who do not show up for their appointment, without notifying the doctor in advance. However, there is no question of doctors “blacklisting” these patients. “Every patient deserves care. These people who forget or who do not come to their appointments, you have to know how to talk to them about it“.
Compensation may be requested from patients
To avoid this kind of problem, does the solution lie in attacking the patient’s wallet? For 35% of doctors questioned by the ABSyM study, the answer is yes. Only, these allowances must be requested within the framework imposed by the order of doctors. “It must be lower than the normal price of the consultation, the patient must have a period of 24 to 48 hours to cancel his appointment and he must have been warned that in the event of an unreported absence, there will be a compensation requested“, says Gilbert Bejjani.
This technique, Nathalie Mercier applies it when an appointment is not honored. “A reminder message is sent to patients three working days before the consultation“, she clarifies. “If, despite everything, the patient does not show up, I charge an indemnity of 10 euros. It’s not very dissuasive, maybe we should charge for a full consultation, but that’s not for me to decide“.
As the doctor explained, this “no show” phenomenon penalizes doctors, but it also prevents faster treatment of other patients, who would like to have an appointment in sometimes overloaded areas. “Some specialists have very long queues in their schedules. These people, who do not show up, prevent patients from coming more quickly, which is quite disturbing when some cases may require a faster diagnosis.“, confirms Gilbert Bejjani.
The SMS, “a useful reminder”, but not yet sufficient
Questioned by the editorial staff of RTL Info, the opinions of patients at Jolimont Hospital are clear: preventing an absence, as far as possible, is the least you can do. “Not coming to a scheduled appointment, it’s happened to me before, but I always warn before!“, explains a lady. “The last time the patient who had a consultation before me didn’t come and I had to wait for nothing, it’s annoying“.”Thanks to the SMS that we are sent, it is impossible to forget now“, underlines a mother at the entrance of the hospital. “I am in favor of the fine requested if the appointment is not made, it is normal”. “In our time, everyone has a telephone, the least you can do is prevent“, engages another patient.
We had confirmation of this when we came to the hospital: when it was already 3:00 p.m., the 2:40 p.m. appointment had not come to Dr. Nathalie Mercier. “It’s a new patient, and obviously, he won’t come, without having warned, once again… It’s quite distressing and painful. It really parasitizes an entire health system“.
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