The Top 5 Reasons Patients Flake Out On Their Appointment Times
This isn’t how you envisioned the start to your day. The patient you were expecting to see at 9 a.m. called to cancel at the last minute, and now your Scheduling Coordinator is desperately trying to find someone to take the opening. You know the chances of her getting a patient in the chair on such short notice are pretty slim, leaving you with a gaping hole in the schedule and wondering how you’re ever going to meet today’s production goals.
That’s the problem with broken appointments. Not only do they lead to chaos and undue stress in your practice, they also cost you money. And I’m talking about thousands of dollars in lost revenue. This can be pretty frustrating, especially if you have no idea why so many of your patients are prone to flaking out.
While you’ll never eliminate them completely, I’m here to help you reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows you deal with each day. It starts with understanding why patients don’t show up in the first place. Here are five of the most common reasons and how to address them:
1. They don’t understand the value of the services you provide. This is where education comes in. If you spend time educating patients chairside about their condition and the importance of maintaining their oral health, they’ll be much more likely to value their appointment time. Give them brochures, play educational videos, answer any questions they have and address their concerns.
Remember, education doesn’t stop after the appointment is over. Think of every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate. Place brochures in the waiting room and at the appointment desk for patients to thumb through while they wait to be called back. Sending out patient statements? Include materials about general oral health topics or services you talked about during their last appointment. Send educational articles via email, maybe even through a monthly practice newsletter.
This will all help patients understand the value of dentistry and the services you offer, and that will go a long way in creating connections with patients as well as helping them understand why they should make routine dental appointments a priority.
2. There’s no sense of urgency. Patients are pretty good at coming up with reasons not to go forward with treatment. Maybe they don’t want to take the time off work, or they don’t think they can afford it. So if you give them the impression there’s no hurry to pursue treatment, guess what? They now have another excuse to put it off for as long as possible.
I suggest you take the same approach during routine hygiene visits. Train your hygienist to educate patients about the oral-systemic link, the importance of oral cancer screenings and why they need to make oral health a priority. When they understand how important routine visits are to maintaining and improving their health, they’ll be more likely to show up.
3. You haven’t developed a policy. What should be part of your policy? Ask patients to cancel at least 48 hours in advance so another patient has the opportunity to take the slot. Remind patients of the policy every time they make an appointment, and how last-minute cancellations throw off the practice’s schedule. You should see a huge drop in the number of broken appointments you deal with each day.
4. You don’t confirm appointments. Sometimes patients don’t show up simply because they forgot they scheduled an appointment with your office, which is why it’s so important to confirm with patients two days in advance. And that doesn’t mean calling and leaving a voicemail. You actually have to talk with patients. I suggest you ask how they’d prefer to confirm appointments, whether it’s via phone call, text or email, and then use their preferred method of contact.
5. You rely on pre-appointing. I know this is a popular practice, but it really is outdated. Patients have no idea what they’ll be doing in six months, so even though they scheduled an appointment with you, there’s a pretty good chance something else will come up between now and then that prevents them from being there.
To avoid this, I recommend implementing a hybrid system. What does that mean? Only pre-appoint reliable patients, and flag any patients with at least two no-shows as unreliable. Let these patients know you’ll call them as appointment times become available.
Broken appointments can be pretty costly. Following these tips will help you reduce last-minute cancellations and no-shows, boosting production and ultimately your bottom line.
Next week, Don’t let broken appointments wreak havoc on your day.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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