An estimated 3000 sick Tasmanians a month are being denied prompt appointments at their doctor because patient no-shows are failing to notify clinics of their cancellation. The Huon Valley Health Centre, south of Hobart, has even taken the step of tallying the failed patient cancellations on a whiteboard in its waiting room, showing 169 such cases in four months to May.
Patients have been told the problem, in some cases, is denying those in real need of a prompt appointment at the clinic. Huon Valley Health Centre practice manager Simon Hancock, also the Australian Association of Practice Management state president, estimated up to 3000 patients across the state every month were no-shows and failed to notify of their cancellation. “It is very frustrating and I actually think it’s outright rudeness,” Mr Hancock said. He said such patients were “taking away appointments for people with serious health issues”. “It frustrates me that people don’t appreciate the services that doctors provide,” he said.
Mr Hancock said the Huon Valley Health Centre did everything possible to remind patients of appointments, including a reminder text message, appointment card and calling those with a double appointment. “Without physically going out and bringing them to the practice, what else can we do?” he said. Repeat no-showers were denied future appointments unless they paid their fee or it was a medical emergency.
“It gets to the point, if it’s a repeat offender, we have to say ‘Only in cases of emergency will we be able to provide you with regular treatment’,” he said. “It seems to be the 20 to 40- year-olds, they are the common offenders. “It may be because a lot of them don’t have a chronic disease.” About 25 per cent of patients at the clinic who did not notify of a cancellation never paid their invoiced fee, with the cost written off. Mr Hancock said tallying the figures on the whiteboard in the clinic’s waiting room, the idea of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Bastian Seidel, a doctor at the Huonville practice, had surprised many patients. “They were just astounded that people were not attending appointments,” he said. “The reason for the whiteboard is patient education.”