9 Ways to Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows
When patients don’t show up for their scheduled appointments, it throws off your entire day. If your Scheduling Coordinator can’t fill the holes, you’re left with way too much down time and no chance of meeting production goals.
Unfortunately, in today’s busy culture, broken appointments are bound to happen. In fact, on average, 28% of patients regularly don’t show up for their appointments, leading to undue stress in your practice and, worst of all, costing you money. Educating your patients about the value of dentistry and their appointment time is a great way to reduce cancellations and no-shows. It is something every practice should focus on, but there are other ways to help ensure patients are in the chair during their designated times.
Here are nine tips I put together to help you curb cancellations and increase profits at your practice.
1. Don’t rely solely on pre-appointing. Patients have no idea what their schedule will look like six months from now, so you’re just asking for them to cancel when you schedule appointments that far out. Now might be a good time to rethink this outdated scheduling system, because all its doing is costing you time, money and frustration. If you’re not ready to drop it all together, consider implementing a hybrid system and only pre-appoint reliable patients you’re fairly confident will show up.
2. Be thorough. Go over every appointment detail when scheduling patients. Here’s an example of what I mean: “Mr. Tyler, your one-hour appointment is scheduled for Tuesday, February 16 at 11 a.m. If you can’t keep this appointment, please call our office at least 48 hours in advance to allow another patient the opportunity to see the doctor at that time.”
3. Confirm appointments. Designate and train a Scheduling Coordinator to confirm appointments with patients two days in advance. Find out each patient’s preferred contact method, whether it’s email, text or phone call. If the patient prefers a phone call reminder, make sure your coordinator knows it is necessary to actually talk to the patient to confirm the appointment; just leaving a message won’t get the job done. It’s also a good idea to schedule time to confirm appointments after hours to ensure your coordinator can connect with patients who are difficult to reach during the day.
4. Follow up. Your Scheduling Coordinator should check in with every patient who doesn’t show up for a scheduled appointment. Use this as an opportunity to politely remind patients of the importance in keeping their appointments and maintaining their oral health, and to also find a convenient time to reschedule. Your coordinator should follow the same procedure for patients who cancel but don’t reschedule right away.
5. Show concern. Once a patient is more than 10 minutes late to an appointment time, your Scheduling Coordinator should call to express concern about his or her well-being. Here’s an example of what to say: “Mr. Smith, this is Mary from Dr. Huth’s office. We were expecting you for a 1 p.m. appointment today and were concerned when you didn’t arrive. Is everything okay?”
6. Keep a list. Instead of scrambling to fill holes every time a patient cancels or doesn’t show up, keep an updated list of patients who are looking for earlier appointment times, or who you know are willing to move their appointments to fill unexpected voids in the schedule. Call these patients and you’ll be more likely to fill the scheduling holes created by cancellations and no-shows.
7. Flag unreliable patients. After a patient racks up two no-shows, I think it’s pretty safe to say they are unreliable. Instead of putting this patient in the schedule, politely state that you will contact him or her when an opening is available. For example, “Mr. Tyler, we seem to be having trouble coordinating a time that works for your schedule and ours. I don’t have any appointments available at this time. However, I do have all your information and will contact you when there is an opening.”
8. Consider extending your hours. Work meetings and other responsibilities tend to pop up during the day, leading to patients cancelling or even forgetting about their appointments altogether. If this seems to be a common theme with your patients, consider offering evening and weekend hours. Extended hours may make it easier for patients to find appointment times that work for their schedule, and to stick to them.
9. Set a policy. If patients know you have a broken appointment policy, they’ll be less likely to flake out. Communicate your policy to new patients and politely remind existing patients of the policy every time they make an appointment.
Broken appointments wreak havoc on your day and hurt your bottom line. Educating your patients and following these tips will help you to drastically reduce schedule busters, making your practice more efficient, less stressful and more profitable.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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