The Case for Late Arrival Policies

How does your practice respond to late patients? By having a late arrival policy you can be sure these situations are handled with forethought, compassion and professionalism.

When conducting an office risk assessment PSIC pays attention to whether or not a provider consistently runs late. If so, we check to see if patients are notified of the circumstances and given an opportunity to reschedule. This is given consideration because long wait times can make patients angry and give the impression that he/she is not important.

On the flip side, what happens when patients run late? When a patient arrives late, and is told he/she will need to reschedule, it can present a volatile situation. Therefore, it is important that late arrivals are handled with forethought, compassion and professionalism.

Late arrival policies

Here are a few steps to help you review or set up late arrival policies and procedures:

  1. Create a policy statement that defines the purpose of your policy. The policy statement should emphasize:
    • The staff’s desire to make visits as pleasurable and comfortable as possible while also minimizing wait times.
    • Your commitment to providing attention to patients during their reserved appointment times.
  2. Determine the procedures that work best for your office, including:
    • The definition of late for your office. Late is typically defined as a patient who is between 10 and 15 minutes late.
    • If you will differentiate between sick and well visits. For example, you may want to reschedule well visits but offer to see a sick visit patient as soon as possible.
    • How the patient’s paperwork will be handled. Do patients need to arrive early if they don’t have a computer to download and complete forms ahead of time?
    • How habitual late arrivals will be handled. Will you ask these patients to find another provider? Will you only give them appointments at certain times to reduce their late arrival impact? Will you address the issue with them?
    • Will you request all patients arrive 10 minutes early to appointments? If so, your office must be open and ready for patients. This is important at the beginning of the day and if your office is closed for lunch.
  3. Show your appreciation for policy adherence by:
    • Mentioning your appreciation for a patient’s compliance and understanding as you strive to provide excellent medical care and outstanding customer service.
    • Thanking the patient for his/her part in maintaining an efficient patient schedule.

Finally, be sure to share your policies and procedures with your patients to reduce surprise and frustration. By taking these steps, you will be on your way to creating and maintaining an effective late arrival policy at your practice.