5 reasons broken appointments were a problem in 2019

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

You just don’t understand it. So many patients make appointments, only to cancel at the last minute or not show up at all. It seems like you have a hole in your schedule just about every day because a patient forgot about his appointment, or because something else more important came up.

Last-minute cancellations and no-shows are not only frustrating, sending your team members into panic mode as they work to find a replacement, they’re also pretty costly. How costly? If your practice averages two cancellations/no-shows a day, at about $100–$125 each, you’re losing more than $40,000 a year. That’s a pretty large number, and it doesn’t even count the lost production you never had the opportunity to diagnose.

If broken appointments held your practice back in 2019, it’s time to figure out why. Here are the top five reasons patients flaked out on their appointments, and some tips to help you significantly reduce the number of last-minute cancellations and no-shows you have to deal with in 2020.

1. There isn’t a sense of urgency. If patients don’t truly understand why you’re recommending treatment and the possible consequences of delaying that treatment, they’re not going to have a problem skipping out on the appointment they schedule. That’s why it’s so important for you and your team members to create a sense of urgency. Educate patients about their condition and the dental issues (and extra costs) they might encounter if they put off getting necessary care.

I suggest you do the same in hygiene. Train your hygienist to educate patients about the oral-systemic link. When patients understand how their mouth effects the rest of their body, they’ll be more likely to make routine visits a priority.

2. They don’t see value in the appointment. Many patients don’t have any idea what goes into a dental appointment, or why it’s so critical to go forward with needed treatment. Focusing on education certainly will help with that, including showing them images of what’s going on in their mouth, playing educational videos, and sending them home with information about their condition and the recommended procedure. Look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate, and you’ll see the number of broken appointments you deal with go down.

It’s also a good idea to continue the education outside the office. Send patients informational newsletters every month and include educational materials with any statements you send via snail mail. This will help keep dentistry top of mind for patients when they’re not in the chair.

Here’s another tip. Give patients a summary of their appointment after each visit. Include all the services provided, a review of the hygiene evaluation, home care instructions, recommendations for follow-up treatment and a list of all the free products they’re taking home. Patients will be surprised by everything their appointment included, helping them to appreciate the time they spend in your office a lot more. And if you create a template, it will only take a few minutes for one of your team members to create this summary. Trust me, it’s time well spent.

3. It slipped their mind. Your patients are busy people, and if they scheduled an appointment with your office six months ago, there’s a chance they’ll forget—which is why you need to remind them.

I suggest sending out reminders to patients two days before their scheduled appointment. Ask them if they prefer reminders via text, email or phone call, then use their preferred method. Patients can confirm their appointment or reschedule if they have a conflict, giving you plenty of time to fill the open spot.

4. They don’t think they can afford it. Patients might have second thoughts after they schedule treatment—especially if that treatment is expensive. They might convince themselves they can wait a little longer, or that it’s not really worth the cost. That’s where third-party financing from companies like CareCredit can help. Instead of having to part with the money all at once, patients can pay for treatment in small monthly amounts. This makes the cost much more manageable and will help reduce the number of patients who change their mind about going forward with treatment.

5. They don’t realize how not showing up hurts your practice. Patients don’t cancel at the last minute because they want to ruin your day. They’re focused on their crazy schedule and all the tasks they need to get done, and the fact that keeping their dental appointment will only put them even further behind. They probably aren’t thinking about how canceling their noon appointment at 11 will impact your practice. That’s why I suggest you tell them.

Create a cancellation policy and remind patients of this policy every time they schedule. Ask patients to cancel their appointment at least two days in advance so another patient has the opportunity to see the doctor. Let them know how no-shows and last-minute cancellations hurt the practice and they’ll be less likely to flake out.

If broken appointments held your practice back in 2019, now is the time to make changes that will streamline your schedule and increase production in 2020. Need more guidance to get there? Feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help.

Next Thursday: Make a resolution to reduce broken appointments in 2020 Share this Newsletter

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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