Yes, Blue Monday is the name of a song by a British band, but to many people in dentistry, it means something entirely different. Blue Monday is the feeling you get when you enter the office on Monday morning and check your messages to find that your two hour bridge prep appointment has cancelled due to an illness caused by some “highly contagious” virus or that the once confirmed hygiene schedule is riddled with the holes caused by week-end cancellations. Now you are scrambling to fill open time slots or move people up to buy more time to fill the afternoon.
One office I spoke to about this problem said that they had solved it for the most part. The Business Administrator comes in on Saturday or Sunday and checks the messages. If there are any cancellations she tries to fill them. I don’t recommend this for many reasons and I am sure some are obvious. Another office I spoke to said they don’t see patients on Monday but the Scheduling Coordinator comes in and “firms” up the schedule for Tuesday. I don’t agree with this either because Monday is typically one of the busiest days in a dental practice.
There is no solid way to prevent some last minute cancellations because things do happen that are unexpected. There is a system to eliminate much of the problem and it requires following a few steps to create a “qualified” appointment. A tip to the wise would be not to schedule anyone on a Monday that had cancelled on a Monday because this could be a repeat behavior. Another tip would be to inform patients that are scheduled Monday that if they have any doubt with the appointment time to schedule for another day. To manage your schedule for fewer cancellations and no shows follow these steps:
- Make sure that the patient understands the procedures to be performed, the length of time he or she will spend in the treatment room and the recovery time, if any.
- Make sure that the patient understands that the time is reserved only for them and that a special room and set-up has been prepared by the team to complete their work
- Make sure that the patient has a written treatment estimate and has paid or understands what he will have to pay at the appointment. You must know how the patient intends to pay otherwise you may get a cancellation. I recommend having all patients qualified by Care-Credit and offered the financing options. The interest free option is very popular.
- Make sure that the patient does not have an existing overdue balance and is appointed on hygiene for Monday. I guarantee the chances of a cancellation are quite high.
- Make sure your Monday patients needing pre-med have their medication. Check to see if anyone coming in needs to be off Coumadin before the appointment.
- Make sure that all patients understand your office policy regarding last minute cancellations and failed appointments. Having a short statement on the Health History form is advisable located just before the signature line.
- Create a Short Call List or an ASAP list of patients that have agreed to take appointments on short notice. Don’t call anyone that is not on this list because many people make special arrangements to be at your office and cannot change at the last moment. I recommend asking everyone as you make the appointment if they would like to come in sooner should something open up on the schedule and making notes about time preferences in the appointment note section.
Have written scripts as to what to say when a patient calls to cancel. Place these scripts in your Office Training Manual.
Remember that a schedule that holds together is a team effort. If the team has done it’s job by educating the patient to value the care they are given and the patient reciprocates by keeping the appointments and paying for the services, you have a successful schedule. Let’s make it a goal to take the “Blue” out of Blue Monday.
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