Your Ultimate Guide to Surgery Cancellation Policies

Your Ultimate Guide to Surgery Cancellation Policies

Cue the dramatic music and imagine the scene: A bustling surgical practice filled with anticipation, a cast of skilled professionals, and patients ready to take center stage. But just like in any epic movie, there’s a plot twist waiting to unfold – a surgery gets canceled. But the show must go on – the surgery cancellation policy and protocol ensure that everyone is notified, the block time doesn’t go to waste, and rescheduling starts immediately. 

Why Have a Surgery Cancellation Policy?  

Imagine planning a movie premier and having half the celebrities bail at the last minute. Not fun, right? Well, your practice is like that party, and a surgery cancellation policy is on the VIP list. It’s here to protect your practice from financial chaos when unforeseen circumstances try to crash the party.  

Let’s dive into why this policy is your practice’s secret superhero cape.  

Think of it this way: When surgeries get canceled, it’s not just a minor inconvenience. It’s hours or days of planning, coordinating, equipment delivery, preparation – all gone. Financial loss, wasted time, and frustrated staff – not the harmony you were aiming for.  

Are Surgery Cancellation Policies Necessary?  

a surgical coordinator handing a patient a surgical cancelation policy

While not as thrilling as a superhero movie, a surgery cancellation policy is your practice’s insurance. As a financial incentive for patients to give you a heads up, it also keeps everyone informed, prevents time-consuming rescheduling, and business loss.

It’s like a cheat code for surgical coordination – saving you from headaches and keeping the drama to a minimum.  

Which Practices Need a Surgery Cancellation Policy?

In the grand scheme of things, if you’re running a private practice, you need some sort of policy. It’s not just for surgical coordinators. It’s for everyone involved – protecting your vendors, surgeons, sanity, and cash flow.  

What’s a Canceled Surgery Cost?  

Time is the star of the show in the surgical world. Operating room costs add up by the minute. The estimate for the average canceled surgery in the U.S. is $4,550 per case. 

You can calculate this for your practice for a more precise number. Include the cost of rescheduling, the cost of the missed surgery, and a dollar amount for the major inconvenience. 

Why Are Surgeries Canceled and What Are Valid Reasons?  

a patient who canceled a surgery and doesn't care

Surgeries are like Hollywood productions. Things go wrong, and the curtains close. Your patient might forget to hand in a medical form, or a family emergency could throw a plot twist into the mix. It’s crucial to consider both foreseeable and unforeseeable factors when crafting your policy.  

For example, if a patient comes down with the flu on the same day as their surgery, that’s a legitimate reason. We can’t argue with germs, and you may want to be a little more lenient with the fine. 

Being forgetful is a different story, though. And you can build this into your policy to make things feel fair to your patients. That can qualify for a maximum fine. Whatever the reason, write your policy’s fees to reflect your judgment.  

When and Where Should You Communicate Your Policy for Patients?  

Like a good movie promotion, you need to provide people with the info they need well before the show starts. It’s best to plan on letting patients know how to cancel when scheduling their surgery date. 

a patient signing a surgical cancelation policy

Let patients know verbally and have the cancellation policy and information in writing. The last thing anyone wants is to be confused when things need to be communicated quickly. It would even be a good idea to remind patients when you give them their week-before reminder, just in case.  

An online cancellation form is your sidekick, collecting details like:  

  • Name and identity confirmation 
  • Type of surgery 
  • Reason or excuse for cancellation 
  • Potential reschedule date 

With this info, you’ll be able to quickly make the necessary pivots. Plus, your patient gives you a soft commitment for rescheduling. This may help prevent them from having the surgery done elsewhere or forgetting to reschedule at all.  

What is a Good Example of a Reasonable Surgery Cancellation Policy? 

There are many examples out there, but it’s important to keep in mind that many cancellations will probably be regrettable – like all those bad sequels. So, when crafting your policy, be reasonable yet firm. 

What Should Your Policy Include?  

Your policy should be as detailed as the surgery itself. Make sure it’s easy to understand and access so there’s no confusion and the cancellation process isn’t an excuse. At minimum, include 

  • Cancellation fee 
  • Reasons or examples 
  • Time frames 
  • Any special conditions 
  • Directions and communication lines for how to cancel  

It’s good to list examples and corresponding fees in the policy. And keep a log of past “special cases” for referencing future cases. The more consistent you can be, the more justified your future rulings will be. 

What’s a Reasonable Cancellation Fee?  

The surgical cancellation fee should sting a little but not require your patient to star in the next heist flick. You don’t want to drive good business away, but you do want to send a message. It’s more of a reminder to patients that commitments are serious business. Think of it as a motivational fee – encouraging patients to keep their word.  

Take an hour and calculate the maximum cost of rescheduling a surgery under the worst conditions. This would be your top fee. From there, consider the expected and unexpected excuses and time frame. Then, reduce fees based on what you see fit. 

a patient who canceled surgery due to a pet injury

No show and no communication? That’ll be the max fee. Trying to reschedule a week ahead of time due to a pet emergency? That could be a lesser cost.  

How Much Heads-up Do You Need? 

a patient calling the surgical coordinator to cancel surgery

Many practices tell patients to avoid cancellation fees by rescheduling three days before surgery. Surgical coordinators can establish the most realistic timeline for your practice.  

You’ll want to make sure there is time to notify the right people, reschedule, and contact future patients to book up the newly available OR time.  

What Happens If You Cancel Surgery?  

What’s it like when your 8:00 am patient calls in because they just ate a stack of pancakes before a ureteroscopy? Chaos, right? By making patients aware of your policy and fees (and maybe even reminding them a week before), you can minimize this. Still, last-minute cancellations happen, so have a plan in place. It’s your emergency exit strategy.