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Missed medical appointments are a waste of resources

Every day, a vast number of patients fail to show up for medical appointments with their healthcare providers. Whereas there are many reasons for the so called ‘no shows’, many fail to appreciate the huge impact that missed appointments have on health service provision.

Medical appointments with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers are usually made for good reasons. Well organized services will usually have a diary, with appointment slots spaced out to allow ample time with each patient. Bookings are normally made in advance, and individuals can request appointment times that suit them. Only exception is emergencies, which are handled entirely differently in appropriate emergency centres.

A casual look at clinic attendances reveals a big number of individuals who simply don’t show up on the day. They don’t bother to cancel the appointments if no longer necessary. Missed appointments waste ample resources. The cascade effect is a negative impact on the health workers productivity for the day. And further down the line, cost-effectiveness of health service is affected.

If you must skip a medical appointment, please call way in advance to cancel or reschedule. This opens up the slot for somebody else. If you are running late, please call and check that you can still be accommodated. No one has the time to idle about waiting for individuals coming in whenever they choose. Any other way is just plain disrespect to your service providers, and other patients who might have been more deserving.

Health service providers are increasingly hitting back on missed appointments. Some providers will fine you a nominal fee for not showing up. Others will reduce your allocated consultation time for subsequent appointments. And you won’t be able to request prime time appointment slots, you get relegated to the end of the day or onto the most undesirable times. Some providers will even go a step further and strike you off from their practice if you habitually miss appointments. You can take your business elsewhere, good riddance.

All that sounds unfair? It is very easy to cancel appointments that are no longer required, or reschedule at more convenient times. Why do some patients not bother? Others don’t even bother to make any appointments at all, they simply walk in and expect to be served soon as they arrive. It’s an insult to those who have patiently waited for their slots.

Don’t make any medical appointments if you don’t intend to honor them. If unable to honor a scheduled appointment, cancel or reschedule in good time. Missed appointments are a burden to the healthcare system, disrupting smooth running of health services and contributing to wastage of time and resources.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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