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Doctor forced to impose cancellation fee on patients after cancellations soar to 30%

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Under the new policy, patients who cancel appointments at the last minute face a penalty of $100. The doctor believes that the deposit requirement will serve as a deterrent to prevent patients from forgetting their appointments without informing the clinic in time

SINGAPORE: Medical aesthetics doctor Dr Siew Tuck Wah has revealed the implementation of a cancellation policy at his clinic aimed at addressing the increasing rate of last-minute cancellations and no-shows.

The policy requires patients to place a deposit before booking a consultation or treatment, with a small penalty for inadequate prior notice of cancellation.

While he acknowledged that the policy had frustrated some, Dr Siew explained that the decision was driven by the necessity to cope with the mounting challenges of appointment-based businesses in the medical aesthetics field.

His clinic Radium Medical Aesthetics at Suntec City, known for delivering high-quality and personalized services, had been grappling with a surge in last-minute cancellations and no-shows, particularly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The pandemic has seen an increase in individuals working from home, leading them to schedule appointments during their workdays. Moreover, as travel resumed, people’s schedules became more unpredictable, making it challenging for the clinic to manage their appointment slots efficiently.

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Last year, cancellation rates soared to approximately 30 per cent, significantly impacting the clinic’s revenue and Dr Siew’s ability to accommodate patients promptly. The situation worsened as operational costs rose to 30 per cent following the pandemic, straining the clinic’s financial stability.

Despite these challenges, Dr Siew has made a conscious effort not to raise prices, choosing instead to maintain the clinic’s reputation for delivering personalized services at reasonable rates.

Dr Siew emphasized that the cancellation policy’s objective was not to generate more revenue but to encourage patients to be more responsible with their appointments. He revealed that several patients had advised him to consider such a policy, which led him to explore its implementation further.

Under the new policy, patients who cancel appointments at the last minute face a penalty of $100, which is only a fraction of the treatment’s price. Dr Siew said he believes that the deposit requirement will serve as a deterrent to prevent patients from forgetting their appointments without informing the clinic in time.

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By effectively managing appointment slots, the clinic can optimize its time and resources, enabling it to deliver even better services without increasing prices to cope with inflation. Dr Siew highlighted that the cancellation policy was essential to improve time management, ultimately benefiting patients by ensuring they receive the necessary attention and personalized treatments.

Dr Siew has maintained an approach that requires higher investment in staff, machines, and space, leading to narrower profit margins. The rise of large clinic chains advertising what initially appear to be lower prices has also put pressure on the clinic to strike a delicate balance between affordability and maintaining high-quality service standards.

The doctor said: “What many do not understand is that for clinics to survive, we have a choice of either dropping the prices and selling big packages, therefore adopting a cookie cutter approach, with less time to spend with each patient, or we have to charge a little higher, so that we can have more time per patient, to look through their conditions, and personalize the treatments on each visit.

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“There is nothing wrong with either business model, but my strong emphasis on patient results and perfection means that I can only adopt the 2nd approach. Contrary to popular belief, this 2nd approach also means that profit margins are not high, because we require more staff, more machines, more space.”

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He added, “With a cancellation policy in place, it allows us to continue to serve our patients better. I thank everyone for understanding our difficulties. I am really grateful, that my patients have continued to support us and continue to grow with us all through the years.”

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