4.13.12 Issue #527 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
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The Difference between a Confirmation and a Reminder
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

Dear Belle,

 What annoys me is when a patient doesn’t show or cancels an appointment at the last minute, and to top it off my boss comes up to the desk and asks me, “Was the patient confirmed?”  What should I do to help with this problem?   

Bee Concerned, Scheduling Coordinator

Dear Bee,

Dentistry is a people business and dealing with people who break the rules can be challenging and upsetting.  Most people who work in dental offices are “feeling” personality types and when a patient does not show up or cancels without a reasonable excuse they may take it personally. Don’t dwell on the negative emotion, but take a look at the message you are sending before criticizing the patient too much.

Technology today offers many ways to confirm dental appointments: email, text, calls to cell phones, home phones and work phones, cards and letters. We can inundate with reminders to the point that the patient may tune us out altogether! There is a distinct difference between a reminder call and a confirmation call.  When the clinical message is clear that the patient must keep the appointment, it is up to the scheduling coordinator to explain to the patient about appointment policies.

Use the following script:  “Mrs. Brown, your time with us is reserved only for you. It is considered confirmed. We will be calling (or email/texting) two business days prior to your appointment as a courtesy reminder only.”

If the patient calls to cancel and reschedule the day before or day of the appointment, say:

“Mrs. Brown, I hope everything is okay and we were looking forward to caring for you today (or tomorrow). As you know, the time is reserved just for you and I don’t have enough time to find someone to take your place. Is there anything that you can do to change your schedule so that you can keep your appointment with us today?”

A reminder contact is a courtesy for a confirmed appointment.  A confirmation call requires a call or contact back to personally acknowledge the appointment. If there are “left message” indicators on the computer schedule, this is a red flag that the patient did not get the message or is waffling about committing to being there. Patients who receive text or email messages must opt in by pressing the confirm button on the message, otherwise it is an unconfirmed appointment.   

Be very clear to patients whether you require a call back confirmation on the appointment, so they know what is expected of them. If you don't receive their confirmation, you either remove the appointment and schedule someone else in that time slot, or double book with something you could do without throwing the schedule off too much. Repeat offenders can be asked to pre-pay for their appointment to secure the reserved space or asked to take times on the schedule that are difficult to fill such as 10:00am - 12:00pm or 1:00 - 3:00 pm.

Charging patients for broken appointments is controversial. It can cause negative feelings with patients who are normally compliant and make them vigilant to your office being on time. They may call you ahead of time and ask “Are you on time today?” The charge for the broken appointment is usually well below the amount generated by the actual appointment so some patients will pay it and then continue to break appointments thinking it is okay if they pay the broken appointment fee. Having a conversation in private with the patient about finding ways to help them keep their appointment is recommended instead of the punitive “broken appointment fee.”

The pre-booked hygiene appointment that was made with the patient six months ago should always require a call back confirmation or a confirmation by text or email. If you are sending recall cards two weeks prior to the scheduled appointment, the card should say: “This appointment is considered confirmed for this date unless you respond to this notice at receipt.” This is explained to the patient at the time the appointment is scheduled.

The human factor of the unexpected or the patient lament “I just completely forgot” will always be part of the dental office scheduling challenge. Keeping those numbers to a minimum by creating and communicating appointment policies to your patients has been proven to be highly effective in reducing broken and cancelled appointments.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management'sTraining Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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