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Br J Gen Pract. Feb 2004; 54(499): 108–113.
PMCID: PMC1314803

Missed appointments in primary care: questionnaire and focus group study of health professionals.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The issue of missed appointments in primary care is important for patients and staff. Little is known about how missed appointments, and the people who miss them, are managed in primary care, or about effective strategies for managing missed appointments. AIMS: To understand the perceptions of primary care staff as to why patients miss appointments, to determine how these perceptions influence their management, and to explore the merit of different management strategies. Design of study: A postal questionnaire survey and focus group interviews. SETTING: General practices in Yorkshire. RESULTS: Missed appointments were regarded as an important problem. Patient factors rather than practice factors were perceived as most important in causing missed appointments. Intervention strategies appeared to be driven by perceptions of why patients miss appointments. Negative attitudes, embodied in terms such as "offenders" to refer to those who missed appointments were prevalent, and favoured intervention strategies included punishing the patient in some way. Receptionists believed that general practitioners should address the issue of the missed appointment with the patient. General practitioners felt guarded about addressing missed appointments with their patients in case it affected the doctor-patient relationship. CONCLUSION: People who miss appointments were viewed negatively by primary care staff, and most of the reasons for missed appointments were focused on patients. These beliefs underpinned intervention strategies aimed mainly at punishment. Since there is no evidence base concerning interventions that are effective in reducing missed appointments, these negative attitudes may not be beneficial to staff or their patients.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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