Late Arrival Policies and Procedures

When conducting an office risk assessment, one area the PSIC team pays attention to is whether or not providers are consistently running late.

This area is given consideration because long wait times can make patients angry, and give the impression that they are not important. Therefore, if providers are consistently running late, we check to see if patients are notified of the circumstances and given an opportunity to reschedule.

On the flip side, what happens when patients run late?

When a patient arrives late, and is told they will need to reschedule, it could present a volatile situation. It is important that these cases are handled with forethought, compassion and professionalism.

Here are a few steps to help implement late arrival policies and procedures:

  1. Create a policy statement that defines the purpose of your policy. Policy statements 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 patients to help reduce any surprise or frustration.