4 Reasons Patients Donít Show Up
It’s 11:20 a.m., and the patient who was supposed to be in your chair at 11 still hasn’t shown up. Your Scheduling Coordinator has been working the phones trying to get someone to take the slot, but to no avail. So instead of working toward meeting your daily production goals, you’re sitting around hoping your next patient is more reliable.
It’s frustrating when patients don’t show up for their appointment times or cancel at the last minute, and it’s also costly. If you’ve ever done the math, you know that broken appointments cost you tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. Let’s say your practice averages two cancellations/no-shows a day, at a value of about $100-$125 each. That means you’re losing more than $40,000 a year, before you factor in the lost production you never had the chance to diagnose.
Broken appointments are chaotic and costly, and most doctors tell themselves they’re just part of running a dental practice. Not true. While you’ll never eliminate broken appointments entirely, there are ways you can significantly reduce them while also boosting your production numbers and your bottom line.
First, you have to understand why patients flake out. Here are four reasons patients don’t show up, and changes you can make to help get them in the chair during their scheduled appointment time.
1. You don’t emphasize the importance of dentistry. When you recommend treatment, you need to educate patients about the value of that treatment. Never leave them with the impression there’s no hurry to go forward. Create a sense of urgency, and you’ll notice more patients showing up for their appointments.
How? Educate them about their condition, and make sure they understand the possible consequences of not going forward with treatment. Talk with them about the benefits of improving and maintaining their oral health, and help them see the value of the services you provide.
Do the same during hygiene visits. Train you hygienists to educate patients about systemic health, oral cancer and periodontal disease. They should talk with patients about the importance of prevention, and what could happen if they start skipping routine dental visits. Once they truly understand the benefits of maintaining their oral health, they’ll be much less likely to flake out when it’s time for their next appointment.
2. You rely on pre-appointing alone. Most practices have pre-appointed their patients for years, and have lost money to cancellations and no-shows because of it. Think about it. Do you know what you’re doing at 10 a.m. six months from now? Neither do your patients, and that means the chances of them actually keeping an appointment with you that far out are pretty slim. Either something more important will come up, causing them to cancel at the last minute, or they’ll simply just forget.
If you’re not ready to give up pre-appointing, consider developing a hybrid system and only pre-appoint reliable patients you’re confident will show up.
3. You don’t confirm appointments. Train your Scheduling Coordinator to confirm appointments with every patient through their preferred method of contact, whether that’s text, email or phone call, two days in advance. And when a patient wants a phone call reminder, make sure your coordinator understands that leaving a message isn’t good enough. To confirm the appointment, the Scheduling Coordinator has to actually talk to the patient. This can be challenging; not every patient can take calls during the work day. Consider scheduling time to confirm appointments after hours to ensure you connect with patients who are difficult to reach during the day.
4. You don’t have a policy. If you don’t have a broken appointment policy, you might want to consider developing one. When you create a policy and communicate that policy to patients, they’ll be less likely to blow off their scheduled time with you. Remind patients of your policy every time they make an appointment, and let them know how it affects the practice if they don’t show up, or call to cancel at the last minute. Ask them to cancel at least 48 hours in advance so another patient can see the doctor during that appointment slot.
Every time a patient cancels at the last minute or doesn’t show up at all, it wreaks havoc on your day. It leads to stress for both you and your team members, and keeps you from meeting daily production goals, which in turn costs you money. Reducing cancellations and no-shows at your practice will reduce stress and frustration, while also growing your bottom line.
Next week: Follow these tips to reduce cancellations and no-shows.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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