10.11.13 Issue #605 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
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Scheduling Nightmares: The Canceling Patient
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

The Monday morning “huddle” business meeting reveals three possible problematic patients, and your blood pressure begins to rise. Dr. Worry says to the Business Coordinator, “Were these patients confirmed? They all have a history of cancellations so why are they on the same day? Please call them this morning to make sure they are coming.”  

The Business Coordinator explains that all were reminded electronically, but only two have officially confirmed by email. The Business Coordinator picks up the phone and calls the unconfirmed patient, only to be told that he had a last minute meeting at work and cannot come. Now her blood pressure rises as she says to the patient, “Mr. Smith, I sent you an email reminder and you are supposed to confirm your appointment when you get it.”  Mr. Smith replies, “I intended to come, but I never get notice for these meetings and this is priority.” The Business Coordinator reschedules his appointment, knowing full well this same scenario will most likely be repeated. 

Most practices have patients who they cannot count on to keep regularly scheduled appointments. Some have very few and some have many. The practices that have few have a written protocol or system for management of this type of patient. The first contact a new patient has with your office is the time to explain how appointments are handled. This way the patient will understand what is expected of them and what the practice philosophy is in regards to keeping appointments.
“We make every attempt to honor your scheduled time and the time is reserved for you. It is very important to give us a 2-day notice so that we may accommodate another patient.” Having all staff trained in what to say to patients that are canceling creates uniformity and discourages staff favoritism. Patients will often ask to speak to a more lenient staff member when canceling unless everyone is saying the same thing. Cancellations and appointment failures can be kept at a minimum if patients understand what is acceptable and what is not and that it is not easy to cancel. Scripting and role playing cancellation scenarios are excellent ways to teach staff not only what to say, but how to say it with confidence.

The following are some scripts that will help you communicate to your patients the importance of keeping scheduled appointments. 

Cancel last minute or same day:
Patient:  I need to cancel (or change) an appointment.
Business Coordinator:  I’m sorry to hear that. Is there a problem? Pause. Mr. Brown, I know that the doctor will be concerned about your treatment. He/she was looking forward to taking care of you today. Is there any way that you can change your other plans and keep your appointment with us today?

Or: Mr. Brown, the time is reserved just for you and I don’t have enough time now to find someone to take your place. Is there any way you can keep your appointment today?

Or for repeated cancellations or no shows:
Mr. Brown, I see by your record that it has been challenging for you to keep your appointments. I could keep you on my asap list this week to see if you can take an appointment at short notice. This is only a short term solution as we don’t want to postpone your necessary treatment indefinitely.

If you have an opening the next day that you cannot fill, say to that patient: Mr. Brown, could you do me a favor and take the 10:00am that I have open tomorrow? Or, look to see if there is a family member due that could take the patient’s place. If the patient continues to be non-compliant and doesn’t work with you on a better solution, you need to decide whether you wish to keep this patient in the practice.

For professional business training, scripting and role playing, sign up today for McKenzie Management training customized to your needs. You can come to us or we can come to you. Details can be found HERE.

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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