David Thomas, DPT

Cadence Physical Therapy Co, Buffalo Grove

Every patient coming through the doors of an outpatient physical therapy clinic is always coming for one of two reasons: Musculoskeletal-related pain or loss of function. Each patient has their own, unique, and individual goals that they hope to achieve from conservative treatments such as physical rehabilitation. Guidelines, goals, realistic outcomes, and protocols are provided to each patient based on the diagnosis and severity of their primary issue. However, the question remains, how much does missing or no-showing appointments affect that patient’s ability to successfully achieve their own goals.

Research shows that missed appointments and cancellations constitute a monumental challenge for both clinicians and clinical administrators, especially on the patient’s recovery. Failure to keep scheduled clinical appointments in the outpatient physical therapy setting affects everyone involved. Disruption to the clinic’s workflow, negatively impacting the attitude of clinicians who care about their patients, diminishing the ability to deliver quality care, and premature discharging or discontinuation of physical therapy services are all consequences of patients not showing up for their scheduled visits.

In one study comprised of 930 patient case files, 79% of all patients had canceled or missed an appointment (without making it up) at least once. Research shows that individuals who do not miss or cancel their appointments in the outpatient physical therapy setting have a 93% successful discharge rate and that even missing 1 therapy session without making it up drops the patient’s successful discharge rate down to 68%. Not only does recovery time for patients increase (thus prolonging their time spent driving and attending future sessions) but rehabilitation success rate and ability to achieve all set goals drops dramatically.

One cancellation creates a disruption to the plan of care (POC). The patient does not receive optimal care and they are unsure about why they did not gain any meaningful or clinically significant results.

Listed below are 4 reasons why you should never miss your Physical Therapy Appointments:

  1. CONSISTENCY: As we know, with the vast majority of things we want in life and with setting out goals we want to actually achieve, consistency is key. In order for injured muscles, joints, bones, and other soft-tissues to optimally heal, it is VITAL that you show up for your sessions, especially when most patients do not adhere to their home exercise programs as regularly as they should.
  1. FOLLOWING DOCTOR’S ORDERS: It is important to listen to your Doctor of Physical Therapy. Your therapist spent years and clinical internships/rotations studying and understanding rehabilitation for the musculoskeletal system. This is their specialty, and the orders provided by him/her should be taken into consideration. Missing an appointment is a direct refusal of their orders, limiting you from seeing the full results you hope to achieve.
  2. YOU CANNOT MANAGE IT ON YOUR OWN (YET): Countless patients go to physical therapy a few times and believe they know the exercises well enough to do them on their own without their physical therapist. The problem is, PT sessions progress and adapt/change as you do throughout the course of therapy. You will not be able to monitor and gauge your own progress in the same manner. The absence of “pain” does not mean your issue has resolved or will not come back. Physical therapists are licensed practitioners with Masters or Doctoral degrees with the intent on keeping you safe and taking you through the full road to recovery. Eventually, you WILL become independent in managing and preventing your condition at the end of your plan of care.
  1. YOU LOSE OUT ON ASKING IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Each time you meet with your physical therapist, new questions will arise about your symptoms or about how to adjust and make proper modifications to your daily tasks. When too much time lapses between appointments and these questions don’t get addressed, you lose out on crucial and relevant information..

It’s time to stop the pain you’re feeling. Take the necessary step today so you can look forward to enjoying life without pain. You can learn more today about how we at Cadence Physical Therapy will help you when you browse through our website. If you’re ready to make an appointment, then please call us today at 847-378-4970 or you can use the appointment request form found on our website


  1. Mbada CE, Nonvignon J, Ajayi O, et al. Impact of missed appointments for out-patient physiotherapy on cost, efficiency, and patients’ recovery. Hong Kong Physiotherapy Journal. 2013;31(1):30-35.
  2. Brookes C. Loss of Treatment Time Due to Non-attendance for Physiotherapy Out-patient Appointments in a District General Hospital: Pilot study. Physiotherapy.
  3. Why Do Patients Fail to Begin or to Complete a Course of Physiotherapy Treatment? Physiotherapy. 1990;76(9):575-578. doi:10.1016/s0031- 9406(10)63052-0