Follow These Tips to Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows
Cancellations and no-shows are really starting to become a problem for your practice. In fact, you can’t remember the last time you had a day free of broken appointments, and it’s not only taking a toll on you and your team, it’s killing your bottom line.
You know you need to reduce the number of broken appointments that wreak havoc on your work day, but you have no idea how. I know it’s frustrating, but don’t worry. I’m here to help. If you make a few changes, you can significantly reduce broken appointments in your practice, and that will help you reach daily production numbers and grow practice revenues. Here are a few tips to help get you started.
Don’t miss opportunities to educate. Look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate. Implement an information on-hold program to educate patients when they call the office. Provide education chairside, and reinforce that with educational materials at the appointment desk and in the waiting room. Sending a statement or other piece of mail? Include an educational brochure about oral cancer or how to prevent periodontal disease. When you send your patients an email, include information about a service you provide or an article on the oral systemic link. By educating your patients, you help them to understand the importance of dentistry and the services you provide. This creates value, and when patients value their appointment time, they’re much more likely to show up.
Show them you care. When patients are 10 minutes late for an appointment, give them a call and ask if they’re OK. Not only does this show you care about their well-being, it gives you the opportunity to educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health and keeping their appointments.
Not sure what to say? Try this: “Mrs. Jones, this is Sara from Dr. Sullivan’s office. We were expecting you for a 10 a.m. appointment today and were concerned when you didn’t arrive. Is everything okay?”
And while you have them on the phone, work with them to reschedule that missed appointment.
Offer more flexible hours. Patients often find it difficult to break away from their daily responsibilities, which is why so many cancel at the last minute or forget about their appointments entirely. Consider extending your office hours to accommodate these busy patients. Open for early morning appointments a few days a week, or see patients during evening hours. Many patients would also appreciate the flexibility Saturday morning hours offer, and seeing patients on Saturday would set you apart from practices that are only open during the week. Bottom line, if you make it easier for patients to fit an appointment into their schedule, they’ll be more likely to keep that appointment.
Flag unreliable patients. Once a patient flakes out twice, I suggest flagging him or her as unreliable. That means you contact these patients when an opening comes up, rather than putting them on the schedule in advance. When flagged patients ask to schedule an appointment, politely say you’ll contact them once there’s an opening. You might say something like, “Mr. Clark, we seem to be having trouble coordinating a time that works for your schedule and ours. I don’t have any appointments available at this time. However, I do have all your information and will contact you when there’s an opening.”
Go over appointment details. It’s important to be thorough when scheduling patients. Don’t just give them an appointment card and send them on their way. Instead, say something like, “Mrs. Jones, you have a one-hour appointment scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6th. If you can’t keep this appointment, please call our office at least 48 hours in advance to give another patient the opportunity to see the doctor at that time.”
Confirm appointments. Your patients are busy people who might forget they have an appointment with your practice – especially if you’ve scheduled them six months out, an outdated practice that often leads to cancellations and no-shows. Train your Scheduling Coordinator to find out every patients’ preferred contact method, and to confirm their appointment two days in advance.
Communicate your policy. Having a cancellation policy isn’t enough. You have to communicate that policy to your patients. Remind them of your policy every time they schedule an appointment.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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