The failed appointment

J Okla State Med Assoc. 1991 Sep;84(9):455-8.


Objective: To determine reasons for failed internal medicine clinic appointments.

Design: A retrospective telephone survey of patients within one month of a failed appointment.

Setting: An ambulatory teaching clinic for indigent patients staffed by 30 internal medicine residents where patients have scheduled visits every 30 minutes.

Patients/participants: From the 1,622 scheduled patient visits, the names of 405 patients who failed their appointments were selected for further contact. Successful contact was established with 100 patients.

Measurements and main results: The patients completed a telephone survey administered by residents and students regarding demographics, general health, reasons for failed appointment, and satisfaction with the clinic. Transportation problems accounted for 13% of missed visits, forgetfulness accounted for 11%, personal or family illness and rescheduling problems accounted for 8% each. Miscellaneous reasons accounted for the remainder. Seventeen percent of patients who missed their appointments feared the encounter, but none volunteered this as a reason for their no-show. Fifty-one percent of patients felt that the failed appointments could not have been prevented. Ninety percent of those surveyed were satisfied with their clinic physician, and 82% were seen on-time when appointments were kept.

Conclusions: Lack of transportation appeared to be the most prohibitive factor in continuity of care among this indigent population. Patients are generally seen on-time and are satisfied with their care. Financial pressure does not appear to keep people away. Fear of the physician encounter and forgetfulness may be areas for improved patient education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance