4 Tips to Keep the Schedule Full During the Holidays
“I can’t come for my appointment tomorrow because I have so much going on with my family for Christmas.” Does this sound familiar? Or what about “I’m so sorry to have to cancel but I have to pick up my brother at the airport.” Or “I have such a bad cold (cough, cough) and can’t make it today”, or one of my favorites, “Let’s reschedule this for after the first of the year.”
Keeping the schedule full and running is a challenge at all times, but it can be even more problematic during the busy holiday season. Our patients really are very busy and often have legitimate reasons for wanting to reschedule. Plus, it is cold and flu season. Be that as it may, we still have a practice to run and staff and overhead to pay.
How can we encourage our patients to keep their appointments during the holidays?
1. Confirm patients two days prior to their scheduled time. Whether you are using an automated confirmation service or have staff make the calls themselves, confirming two days ahead rather than one day ahead can be very helpful. While some may say this gives patients additional time to make up excuses, it also gives staff time to find another patient to fill in any holes in the schedule. As always, it is vital to maintain a call-list or log of patients who are willing to come in at short notice. These can be people who are trying to get their treatment completed before the end of the year and the restarting (or loss) of their insurance benefits, or patients who want a certain appointment time that previously was filled, such as the last or first appointment of the day.
2. Know your patient’s case so you may offer appropriate reasons for them to keep an appointment. Be ready with an “argument” concerning why the patient should come in. Don’t fly blind! Pull up their chart information when speaking with them. For example: Mr. Patient calls this morning and says he cannot keep his 2pm appointment. He is scheduled for two hours for crown preparations and seating and five composite restorations.
The Scheduling Coordinator might say, “Mr. Patient! We have reserved two hours for you today to complete the crowns and fillings you have been wanting. If you miss this time, we will not be able to finish your treatment before the end of the year. You have already fulfilled your insurance plan deductible for this year enabling you to use your insurance to its’ maximum. It would be such a shame to lose those benefits. It will likely amount to at least $XX!”
Mrs. Patient leaves a message stating that she has to go to the airport. Call her back and say, “I heard your message about needing to pick up someone from the airport. This will really hurt our treatment plan to have all of your crowns finished before your daughter’s wedding in January. We will probably not be able to have the front teeth finished as we hoped. Is there someone else in the family who could do the pick up?”
3. Mention how disappointed the dentist will be. Mr. Patient calls to say he would like to reschedule for after the first of the year. The Scheduling Coordinator says, “Oh dear. Dr. Smith is going to be so disappointed! He was looking forward to seeing you today to begin on that lower right side that has been bothering you. He had saved two hours just for you.” Don’t offer to reschedule at the end of this speech. Wait to see what the patient will say. Many times the patient will be reluctant to disappoint the dentist.
4. If the patient has a cold, explain that dental treatment can proceed. When patients have colds and coughs, they rightfully think they probably should reschedule. Depending on how ill the patient really is, many times dental treatment can proceed as planned. The Scheduling Coordinator can say, “If you have a cough, we can still do your treatment today. As you know, the dentist and all of the clinical staff wear masks and gloves at all times. We thank you for being so considerate, but we can still take care of you today. If you need to take a few breaks, that will not be a problem. This way we can get your treatment finished up for you.”
While the end of the year and holiday times can be very busy for our patients, we still need them to keep their appointments and keep our schedules full. Don’t just accept it when patients want to reschedule. Ask some questions, make suggestions, express disappointment and don’t offer to set up another time immediately. Taking a little time and working with what you know about the patient’s treatment can sometimes help them make the right decision - to keep their appointment today!
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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