Don't Let Broken Appointments Wreak Havoc On Your Day
Every time a patient doesn’t show up for a scheduled appointment, it costs you money. If you can’t find someone else to take the opening, it pretty much ensures you won’t meet that day’s production goals—which hurts your bottom line and puts extra stress on you and your team members. Broken appointments bring nothing but trouble, which is why it’s time to make some changes if last-minute cancellations and no-shows have become a problem in your practice.
Many dentists I talk with are just resigned to the fact that broken appointments are part of the job. While it’s true you’ll never eliminate them entirely, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce broken appointments and the many headaches they cause.
Interested in learning more? Follow these tips to get more patients in the chair during their scheduled time:
Go over appointment details. When scheduling patients, don’t just give them an appointment card and send them on their way. Instead, say something like this:
“Mr. Day, you have a one-hour appointment scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 21. If you can’t keep this appointment, please call our office at least two days in advance. That will give another patient the opportunity to see the doctor at that time.”
Communicate your cancellation policy. Developing a cancellation policy won’t do you much good if your patients don’t know about it. Remind patients of your policy every time they schedule an appointment.
Flag unreliable patients. After patients flake out twice, mark them as unreliable—and don’t pre-appoint them. Tell them you’ll be in touch when an opening comes up.
Now what if one of these patients wants to make an appointment in advance? This is how I suggest you handle it:
“Mrs. Snyder, 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’s an opening.”
Make hygiene a priority. When patients cancel a hygiene appointment, it should be your Scheduling Coordinator’s priority to fill it. If the cancelling patient gives you less than half a day notice, try to move a scheduled patient from another day into that slot. When you have more notice, contact overdue patients on the recall list.
Pick up the phone. After a patient is about 10 minutes late, I suggest you have your Scheduling Coordinator call that patient. Let him or her know you’re worried, and then use the phone call as an opportunity to provide education about the value of dentistry and the services you provide.
Here’s an example of what the coordinator should say to start the conversation:
“Hello Mr. Jones. This is Angie from Dr. Reed’s office. We were expecting you for your appointment at 1 p.m. I’m concerned because you haven’t arrived yet. Is everything OK?”
Remember to listen carefully to the patient’s response. You might find out she’s dealing with a family emergency, or is having car trouble. Although it’s frustrating when patients don’t show up, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes things happen we simply can’t control. Be sensitive to their situation and work with them to reschedule. If you can’t reach the patient that day, plan to follow up later.
No matter when you get them on the phone, use the opportunity to politely let them know how last minute cancellations and no-shows throw off your schedule. Most patients don’t realize you set-aside time specifically for them, and don’t think about the headaches they cause when they don’t honor their appointment time.
Think about extending your hours. Taking time off during the workday can be difficult for some patients. Even if they schedule an appointment time, inevitability a meeting or something else will pop up, keeping them from actually making the appointment. If this describes your patients, consider offering early morning, evening and weekend hours. This differentiates your practice from those that keep more of a 9 to 5 schedule, and may make it easier for patients to find (and stick to) appointment times that work for them.
Create value. If patients don’t see value in the services you provide, they’re not going to make their appointments a priority. Spend time educating them about the importance of maintaining their oral health and the possible consequences of ignoring problems. Educated patients are more likely to schedule treatment and to show up on time.
Think about how much less stressful your days would be and how much more money you could bring in if you didn’t have to deal with broken appointments. Following these tips will help you significantly reduce cancellations and no-shows in your office.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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