To charge a cancellation fee or not to charge a cancellation fee… that is 1 of the toughest questions a nutrition and wellness professional in private practice must answer!
Last-minute client cancellations can be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly. Unfortunately, establishing and enforcing a cancellation policy may be sensitive and challenging, particularly for healthcare professionals seeking to expand their practices. Since it’s so controversial, it’s no surprise we’re asked to give our perspective on cancellation policies all the time!
Should You Establish a Cancellation Policy?
There are several reasons why it makes sense for most nutrition and wellness professionals in private practice to establish a cancellation policy.
Let’s face it, having clients cancel or reschedule appointments at the last second wastes your valuable time, means missed income, and is one of the leading reasons why practices build slower than expected.
Having a cancellation policy can protect your practice from these obstacles.
At the very least, having a cancellation policy can prevent, or at least reduce the impact of, last minute changes in client schedules, and ensure you’re compensated for the time you’ve set aside.
We believe, and have seen from our own experiences, that while having a policy won’t eliminate last minute cancellations, it can significantly reduce the number of cancellations and the impact these cancellations have on your wallet.
Here are some things to think about when creating a policy:
- What is your window of cancellation? Within 24 hours? Within 48 hours?
- What fee are you charging? The cost of the entire appointment? A standard fee of $25 or $50?
- Will you allow clients to reschedule? If so, will they be able to commit?
- Will you offer “first offender forgiveness?” Do clients get to miss one appointment before they are charged? (With or without their prior knowledge of this policy!)
Consider this when setting your office’s cancellation policy:
State Your Policy Clearly and Simply
Keep your statement concise, easy to understand, and inclusive of all information a client needs to be accountable.
For example: Our office has a cancellation policy such that clients must give notice more than 24 hours in advance of their appointment. If cancelling within 24 hours but before the appointment window, you will be charged a fee of $30. No-shows will be charged the full out-of-pocket fee for their appointment.
State Your Policy Visibly
Post it in your office, include it as part of initial paperwork, or state it on your website when clients book with you. It’s hard to enforce a policy retroactively, so make sure clients know what they’re signing up for when booking with you!
Pro tip: In Healthie, you can customize our standard cancellation policy to your client’s intake flow and obtain an e-signature.
Establish a Protocol For Payment
Are you going to keep a credit card on file? Are you comfortable sending an invoice for cancellations after the fact? Whatever you decide, make sure to have a plan in place!
Pro tip: This is one reason we recommend having a credit card on file for all clients, even if you accept insurance. In Healthie, you can safely keep your client’s credit card stored and charge them for a late cancellation, per your policy.
Don’t Be Afraid To Actually Enforce It
We understand that there will be one-off occasions where you’ll waive your cancellation policy. In extenuating circumstances, or for a first-time offender, it makes total sense. However, be sure to enforce the policy you set in place. If you don’t implement it once, you create a cadence where it’s okay for clients to skip and miss appointments.
We get it – cancellations can be tough. But we believe that by setting a cancellation policy, you can make your schedule and career as a nutrition practitioner in private practice a little more predictable.
Download our sample cancellation policy here!
Here’s the silver lining: online billing and practice management platforms like Healthie can make it easier to establish cancellation policies, and collect payments as they are required. To learn more about how to establish policies for your practice, schedule your demo today!