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Best Practices for a Cancellation Policy for Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapists

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cancellation policy

Cancellations and no-shows can be detrimental not only to the physical, occupational, and speech therapist’s practice but also to the progress of the clients. To prevent such scenarios, a well-defined cancellation policy is essential. Let’s talk about some best practices for creating an effective cancellation policy for physical, occupational, and speech therapists.


Why a Cancellation Policy is Important

Before diving into the best practices, we need to understand why a cancellation policy is essential for therapists. Cancellations and no-shows can have significant financial implications, as the therapists’ time and resources are wasted when clients fail to attend scheduled appointments. Additionally, missed sessions can disrupt a client’s progress, delaying their recovery or rehabilitation. Therefore, implementing a clear and fair cancellation policy provides structure, promotes accountability, and ensures the best possible outcomes for therapists and clients.


Best Practices for a Cancellation Policy

1. Clear Communication

Start by clearly communicating your cancellation policy to the clients. Include the policy on your website, signage in the waiting area, appointment confirmations, and any other communication channels you use. Make sure the policy is well-written, easy to understand, and covers all the necessary aspects, such as notice period, fees, and exceptions.


2. Reasonable Notice Period

Specify a reasonable notice period for cancellations. This gives the therapist adequate time to adjust their schedule and offer the slot to another client. A typical notice period can range from 24 to 48 hours. However, consider factors such as the type of therapy, session duration, and client demographics to determine the optimal notice period for your practice.


3. Enforce a Cancellation Fee or Policy

Consider implementing a cancellation fee or policy to discourage last-minute cancellations and no-shows. This fee should be clearly indicated in your cancellation policy. Ensure it’s fair and reasonable, reflecting the therapist’s time and effort preparing for a session. However, exercise discretion and be compassionate, as some situations may warrant exceptions or flexibility in enforcing the fee. A fee can also deter ghosting and serial no-shows; even if the person refuses therapy, they’re more likely to get discharged rather than incur the fee every time. Of course, the ideal scenario is having them show up.

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4. Reminder System

Use an appointment reminder system to reduce the likelihood of no-shows. Automated reminders via phone call, text message, or email can be helpful in minimizing unintentional cancellations. While your EHR may charge extra for texts, they’re the most effective reminders, so be sure to consider that when setting up your options. Reminders should be sent a day or two before the scheduled appointment, giving clients an opportunity to reschedule or cancel if necessary. The next round of reminders should be sent a few hours before the scheduled appointment. You can also have one last reminder an hour before the appointment begins. You might have to experiment with reminder timing depending on your clientele.


5. Exceptional Circumstances

Create a provision in your cancellation policy that accommodates exceptional circumstances. Life events such as emergencies, illness, or unforeseen situations may occur, leading to last-minute cancellations. Clearly define the acceptable exceptions and provide guidelines for rescheduling without incurring a cancellation fee. This is especially important for therapists working with populations with chronic issues that can flare randomly and impact their schedules suddenly.


6. Flexibility and Understanding

While a well-defined cancellation policy is necessary, it is equally important to approach each cancellation situation with flexibility and understanding. Empathy towards clients’ situations can help maintain a healthy therapeutic relationship. Consider the overall client experience and evaluate individual situations before strictly enforcing the policy.


7. Regular Evaluation

Periodically review and evaluate your cancellation policy to ensure its effectiveness. Solicit your clients’ feedback regarding the policy’s clarity, fairness, and practicality. Analyze cancellation trends and adjust the policy accordingly to better meet the needs of both the therapists and their clients.


8. Serial No-Shows

If you deal with clients continually canceling or no-showing sessions within a timeframe, consider adding a rule that removes them from your caseload or forfeits a spot they hold. For example, 3 no-shows within 60 or 90 days is common. If you don’t want to remove them outright, consider having them self-schedule.



Implementing an effective cancellation policy is crucial for maintaining a successful physical, occupational, or speech therapy practice. Remember, a well-defined policy benefits the therapists and contributes to an optimal client experience and outcomes.

Fusion offers email and text appointment reminders that can be sent to clients automatically. Let us show you what else our client engagement tools could do for your practice. Schedule a demo today.




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