11.21.14 Issue #663 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Cancellations and No-Shows a Problem? Here's Why
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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It’s becoming an all too common occurrence at your practice. Patients call an hour before they’re supposed to be in the chair to let you know they can’t make it after all, or even worse, they just don’t show up. Your office immediately goes into panic mode, as your Scheduling Coordinator scrambles to fill the holes in the schedule in a desperate attempt to salvage the day.

Yes, cancellations and no-shows lead to plenty of stress and frustration, but have you ever thought about how much money broken appointments cost you each year? We’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Just to give you an example, if your practice averages two cancellations/no-shows a day, at a value of about $100–$125 each, you’re losing more than $40,000 a year. And that doesn’t count the thousands of dollars in lost production you never even had the opportunity to diagnose!
Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about why this is happening. You understand your patients are busy trying to juggle work, family and friends, but you also understand how important it is for them to maintain their oral health. The problem is, they don’t. If your patients are constantly cancelling or just plain forgetting they had an appointment with you, chances are they don’t see the value in that appointment.

If you want to drastically reduce cancellations and no-shows, you have to create value, and you do that by focusing on patient education. Not only are educated patients more likely to show up to their appointments, they’re more likely to accept recommended treatment as well. Here’s how you can improve patient education and reduce cancellations/no-shows at your practice.

Look for opportunities. Every time you or a team member interacts with a patient, think of it as an opportunity to educate. Provide education chairside, and reinforce this with educational materials in the waiting room and at the appointment desk. When you send a patient a statement, or any piece of mail for that matter, include patient education materials such as a pamphlet on periodontal disease or oral cancer, or maybe a copy of an article about a recent oral health study. Sending an email? You guessed it, use it as an opportunity to educate the patient about the oral systemic link, the advantages of catching oral conditions early, or any other oral health related topic.
You can also teach your patients about the value of dentistry over the phone. Consider implementing an informational on-hold program that educates patients about oral care every time they call the office.

When you turn every patient interaction into an opportunity to educate, you create value for your patients, and that means they’ll be less likely to end up on your no-show list.
Stress the importance of treatment and prevention. Patients look for reasons not to go forward with treatment, and usually come up with plenty of excuses on their own, from I don’t have the time to I just can’t afford it. If you leave them with the impression there is no hurry to pursue the treatment you’re recommending, you’re just giving them an easy out. After all, why should they be worried if you’re not?

If you want patients to keep their appointments, you have to create a sense of urgency. Stress the importance of proceeding with treatment, and make sure patients understand what could happen if they choose to ignore the problem. Once patients truly grasp the possible consequences, they’ll be far more likely to keep any future appointments.

The same is true for routine hygiene visits. During these visits, hygienists should take the time to educate patients about the importance of systemic health, periodontal health, oral cancer screenings and, of course, their oral condition and the importance of coming to scheduled appointments to either improve or maintain their oral health. Providing this information raises your patients’ dental IQ, enhancing their perceived value of routine care. The more they know, the more important those routine dental appointments become, and the less likely they are to cancel.

Provide a summary of the visit. Most patients don’t realize everything that happens during a routine exam, and therefore don’t think much of it when they cancel at the last minute. To help give them a better understanding, consider providing a brief written summary of the visit. Include a list of all the services performed, such as a periodontal exam and an oral cancer screening, a review of the hygiene evaluation, home care instructions and a reminder about specific areas the patient should pay attention to between now and the next visit. Also outline your recommendations for follow-up treatment, and list every free product he or she left with, complete with an estimated value.

This might seem like a lot to prepare, but you can easily set up a standard template that allows you to fill in the details for every patient. You can have this summary waiting for patients as they check out, or you can send it via email as a way to follow-up. Patients will be surprised to see how much actually happens during their appointment, creating more value and a better understanding of why they can’t just blow it off.

While you’ll never completely eliminate cancellations and no-shows, educating patients and making sure they understand the value of their appointment time will help reduce the number of broken appointments you have to deal with every day. And that, of course, will lower stress levels in your office while raising production numbers and increasing your income.

Next week, 9 ways to reduce cancellations and no-shows.

For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

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