Want to Know Why Patients Aren’t Showing Up for Appointments?
Another patient just called to cancel at the last minute. Yesterday, your first appointment was a no-show and didn’t even have the courtesy to call and tell you she couldn’t make it. When your Scheduling Coordinator finally got her on the phone, she apologized for being so forgetful and made another appointment. You know it will likely happen again, but you’ve come to accept that broken appointments are just part of running a practice.
While it’s true you’ll never completely eliminate broken appointments, you can take steps to greatly reduce them. But before you can get patients to actually show up for their scheduled visits, you have to understand why they’re not. I can help with that. I’ve put together some of the most common reasons patients flake out and how you can help them see why maintaining their oral health should be a priority.
They think they can put it off. Most patients aren’t aware of the possible consequences of delaying treatment. They don’t realize it will likely lead to more expensive problems down the road, so they don’t see a real reason to keep their dental appointments. That’s why you and your team members need to create a sense of urgency. Make sure patients understand why they need treatment and what problems they might encounter if they delay it.
The same is true in hygiene. I suggest you train your hygienist to educate patients about the oral-systemic link and why maintaining their oral health is so important. They’ll be more likely to schedule recommended treatment and show up for routine visits.
Patients don’t see value in the appointment. This is where education comes in. Talk with patients chairside about their condition and show them what’s going on in their mouths. Use videos, images, radiographs and brochures to help deliver the message.
I also suggest you keep educating even after patients leave the office. Sending out monthly e-newsletters filled with information about the services you provide is an example of how you can help keep dentistry top of mind. Another is including educational materials with any bills you send via snail mail. All this will go a long way in showing patients the value of dental care, making them much more likely to make their appointments a priority.
Another tip? Provide a summary to patients after each visit. The truth is, most patients have no idea what goes into their appointment time. Outline all the services provided, a review of the hygiene evaluation, home care instructions, recommendations for follow-up treatment and a list of all the free products they’re taking home (along with the estimated cost). If you set up a template this will only take a few minutes to put together, and will help patients truly understand what happens during the hour when they’re in the chair.
Patients never receive appointment reminders. Your patients are busy people and have a lot going on in their lives. If they don’t get some kind of reminder of their appointment at least a few days out, there’s a good chance it isn’t going to be on their radar – especially if you pre-appoint and they scheduled six months ago.
When patients schedule an appointment, ask them how they’d like to confirm, whether it’s via text, email or phone call, then use that method to remind them they have a visit scheduled with your office. If something else has come up, they can cancel the appointment a few days (rather than a few hours) in advance, giving you the opportunity to fill the open slot.
The practice doesn’t have a cancellation policy. If that’s the case in your office, now is a good time to create one. Through the policy, ask patients to cancel appointments at least two days in advance so another patient can see the doctor at that time.
Make sure every new patient is aware of this policy and remind current patients of the policy every time they schedule. Let them know how last-minute cancellations throw off the practice’s day (many don’t even think about this when they decide they can’t make it in). Knowing you have a policy will encourage patients to think twice before they cancel.
Broken appointments can be pretty costly to a practice, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. Taking the time to focus on education and helping patients see the value of the services you provide will reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows you deal with each week – boosting productivity and your bottom line.
Next week: Take these steps to reduce broken appointments in your practice
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Your New Office Manager is Overwhelmed. Now What?
Dental office managers are often hired because of job skills that have nothing to do with the clinical side of dentistry. Many have never worked in a dental office. Often due to a lack of quality job applicants in the practice’s geographical area, dentists look “outside the box” for suitable candidates.
Dentists look for someone:
What would be on this person’s resume for past employment? Banking experience as a teller or loan manager, a restaurant manager, a shift floor supervisor, a plant production foreman/supervisor perhaps?
Can this hiring practice net a positive result? The answer is “yes”, under the right circumstances.
If the clinical staff is posting treatment from a treatment plan that was created in the treatment room, the insurance information has been entered correctly in the software system and you have maintained the coverage books on each plan, you don’t need the office manager to do this task. If the hygienist schedules patient appointments and enters the codes/posts the treatment, you don’t need the office manager to do this task either. The clinical team, including hygiene staff, can inform the office manager of the next appointment information so they know the appointment is being created correctly.
New office managers often become overwhelmed because the clinical team is not prepared or trained to help them become successful in the job. Some clinical team members may become resistant to helping because they believe they are being asked to do tasks that are not in their typical job description. Some may feel they don’t have the time to train someone without dental experience.
Before hiring a new office manager, look at a standard dental office manager job description and add any job skills you may need your new hire to do.
Typical Job Description for a Dental Office Manager (from indeed.com)
• Create, establish and manage internal office protocols and procedures to ensure office efficiency
Qualifications for an Experienced Office Manager (according to indeed.com)
When hiring someone without dental knowledge of procedures, codes and scheduling basics, there will be a lot of training and hand-holding to get this person up to a skill level where they can manage on their own. Explain to the team that your search for an experienced office manager has failed to produce someone with dental experience. You need their help for all to succeed. Make sure to support the new hire in any way you can.
Invest in outside professional training with courses in dental office management and software training. This will improve the entire practice, not just the new manager.
For help with training your new office manager, look to McKenzie Management as the industry experts in managing practices to exceed in growth and profits.
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