It Is Just A Cleaning
We have all heard the catch phrase “actions speak louder than words” - so I have to ask you and your staff: are the actions of the practice telling patients something different than what you want? Your patients may believe that “it’s just a cleaning” - but what if your staff believe that sentiment as well?
All practices have had a hygienist call in sick. When this happens, the front office might immediately start canceling patients and rescheduling them to a later date. Some offices may cancel one or two patients and call in a substitute hygienist for the day. What about those patients that actually had to use one of their vacation days in order to have the appointment with the hygienist in the first place? Do you really want to cancel them?
Where do those patients end up in the schedule - are they able to get in the next day, one week, two weeks, maybe they have to wait four weeks to get in to the hygienist because the schedule is full. This may really upset some patients, and what exactly are you conveying to them if they have to put off their hygiene appointment for an entire month, when they are supposed to be on a three-month recall, in order to maintain their periodontal disease? This is not something you would pre-block out, in case the hygienist gets sick.
Let’s look at the offices that cancel the entire day. If the patients have to be scheduled into the next week, the practice has just told that patient it is all right if you change your recall. One week is not a big deal. When patients that are on a three month periodontal maintenance appointment cannot get back in for another four weeks - that is really sending a message.
Yes, things happen within the practice and patients need to be re-scheduled. However, the sooner they are back into the schedule the better off it is. One way to not only meet many of your patients’ expectations but also exceed them is for one of the hygienists, who only works 3 or 4 days a week, to add a day to accommodate the patients that need to be rescheduled.
The new open date may not work for all of the patients, but it is still worth telephoning the patients that needed to be rescheduled and saying: “Mr. Jones, our hygienist that had to cancel your appointment because of her baby being sick has added another day this week in order to get you in for your appointment as soon as possible, because it is important for your oral health to stay on your regular schedule.”
Even the offices that have a temporary hygienist come in to cover the day may have to cancel a few patients, either because they only want to see their regular hygienist or because they were the first or second patient of the day and the temporary hygienist could not make it in time. Another option, if you have more than one hygienist, is to ask the other hygienists if they could come in to work an extra day, either that day or even add a day when the office is typically closed. Possibly two of the hygienists could come in that week and work a half-day together.
When there are patients that took the day off specifically for their hygiene appointment, it is best to find a way to have them seen that day - even if it means canceling another patient that you know is retired or has a more flexible schedule. As a last option, if the doctor’s schedule has open time it would be better to move this patient into his or her schedule than to possibly lose a patient. So, before you JUST start canceling, look at all of your options and what other patients are in the schedule that day, and how you may be able to make it all work.
Stepping back and looking at the big picture can make a difference in not only the messages we send to our patients by our actions, but the production in the schedule for the day. One of the worst things you can do is think there is only one solution - to start canceling patients.
If the actions of the dental team are telling the patient “it’s just a cleaning”- then why wouldn’t your patients cancel or no-show their hygiene appointments?
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