By Airman 1st Class Curt Beach
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Brandi Burns, 2nd Force Support Squadron first sergeant, fills out paperwork for an appointment at the 2nd Medical Group at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Dec. 28, 2015. The 2nd MDG has an appointment reminder system in place which calls patients two days prior to an appointment with a message identifying the appointment date and time. However, the appointment reminder system uses phone numbers listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, so it’s critical to maintain updated contact information in DEERS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Curt Beach)
A patient checks in for her appointment at the 2nd Medical Group at Barksdale Air Force Base, La, Dec. 28, 2015. The 2nd MDG is strongly encouraging active duty members and dependents to do everything they can to make their scheduled appointments, or notify the clinic more than two hours in advance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Curt Beach)
Senior Airman Cameron Springer, 2nd Medical Group family health medical technician, looks at his watch as he waits for a patient to arrive for an appointment at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Dec. 28, 2015. The 2nd MDG, which averages 398 no-show appointments per month, asks active duty members and dependents to do everything they can to make their scheduled appointments, or notify the clinic more than two hours prior to the appointment, so another patient can be seen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Curt Beach)
Missing a medical appointment means medical staff isn’t able to do what they’ve been trained to do: help people.
The cost of a no-show appointment is that a patient’s health potentially suffers, other patients needlessly lose access to that appointment slot, appointment availability is reduced, and mission readiness is negatively affected.
“The 2nd Medical Group strives to provide our patients with timely access to world-class healthcare. However, access to such care is negatively impacted when patients no-show for their appointments,” wrote Col. Ender Ozgul, 2nd MDG commander, in a policy letter. “When a patient doesn’t show for an appointment, it reduces the appointment availability for others who need them. Missed appointments result in a waste of government assets and delayed medical treatment for other beneficiaries. Patient access to our providers is reduced with each no-show.”
On average, the medical group experiences 398 no-show appointments per month, significantly reducing the number of appointments available to the rest of the base.
“The number of monthly no-shows in the Medical Group is equivalent to the number of appointments that one full-time provider could see,” said Lt. Col. David Dickey, 2nd Medical Operations Squadron commander. “When we are short on providers, patients have to wait longer for appointments.”
Additionally, showing up late can have a snowball effect on all following appointments.
“When a patient shows up late, it puts the provider behind,” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Gould, 2nd MDG office manager for family health. “For example, if a patient who is slotted for a 10-minute appointment shows up 10 minutes late, now they’re cutting into someone else’s appointment time, and the rest of the patients on the schedule that day experience longer wait times.”
If you are unable to make your scheduled appointment, the medical staff asks you to call the central appointment line at (318) 456-6555 during normal duty hours, or use TRICARE online at https://www.tricareonline.com/ to cancel. Calling as soon as you are aware you can’t make your appointment, but no less than two hours prior, allows the clinic enough time to book another patient in that time slot.
“When an active duty patient doesn’t show up for their appointment, we have to notify the patient’s chain of command,” said Senior Airman Cameron Springer, 2nd MDG family health medical technician. “For all other patients, we contact the patient to document in their medical record their reason for not showing up. This provides accountability and history for the patient’s medical team, but takes time out of our day.”
To decrease the amount of no-shows, an appointment reminder system calls patients two days prior to an appointment with a message identifying the appointment date and time. However, the appointment reminder system uses phone numbers listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, so it’s critical to update your contact information in DEERS at https://pki.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/address/beneficiary/PostAuntenticateAction.do.
“We do this because we’re here to help people,” said Springer. “If someone’s sick and we can’t treat them because someone else just decided not to show up, the sick person suffers. We really need you to show up to your appointments. We legitimately want to help people. That’s what we’re here to do. We want you to come. We want you to get the help that you need.”