By Emily Brainard, Army Flier StaffMarch 5, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Lyster Army Health Clinic staff lost significant revenue in 2009 because of 7,185 patients not arriving for scheduled appointments that revenue could have been used to obtain more services to better care for beneficiaries, according to clinic officials.
Many problems arise when servicemembers, retirees and Family members skip scheduled appointments without adequate cancellation notice, according to Martha Frausto, patient advocate.
Patrons should give 24 hours notice for specialty care appointments and alert staff two hours before Aviation medicine and primary care appointments, said Maj. Bonnie Buckhalt, Managed Care Division chief.
"The military health care system has a very structured appointment schedule, and doctors are expecting patients to arrive at pre-scheduled intervals," Buckhalt said. "When a patient doesn't show up for an appointment, the doctor and his staff's time is lost."
LAHC doctors do not charge clients no-show fines as many civilian counterparts would, but this is no excuse for missing appointments, Buckhalt said.
Customers offer a myriad of reasons for not following up on their commitments, Carla Graham, Patient Appointment Services supervisor, said.
Reasons include being too busy, sick or tired to attend, forgetting to call and cancel, completely forgetting appointments or no longer needing treatment because issues have already been resolved.
If all appointments were kept, and precious dollars used efficiently, LAHC staff could obtain more services, like equipment, to better care for patients, Buckhalt said.
In addition to lost resources, individuals who don't cancel in advance hinder those truly needing to be seen by doctors.
People on waiting lists can obtain cancellation slots if given enough advance notice, she added.
"A no-show is more than just a single missed appointment. Really, it's two," Buckhalt said. "It is also a missed appointment for the person who needed to be seen but couldn't get an appointment. When unable to keep an appointment, please take time to cancel so that someone is given the opportunity to use that appointment time."
Patients can call 255-7000 24 hours a day, seven days a week to cancel. An option to leave messages is available after business hours.
Appointments made online with TRICARE may be cancelled at www.tricareonline.com.