The majority of broken appointments occur due to the lack of control by the practice. I’m referring to the lack of firm financial policies, patient education and adding value to the visit. For example, if the hygienist is spending 75% of her time with the patient talking about her wedding and vacation resorts and 25% of the time talking about dentistry, the patient will see little value in their visit. Those percentages should be the other way around. The majority of the appointment time should be about the patient’s dental health, dentistry and what is occurring in the patient’s mouth. They need to see value so they realize the importance of routine visits.
15 Tips That Will Help You Have Better Control Over Broken Appointments
- Educate the patient when the needed treatment is being diagnosed. Tell them what will happen if they put off the procedure. Let them know it will cost more if they wait. Let them know their condition will not go away on its own. It will get worse and you should let them know that.
- Have a firm financial agreement with the patient before you make the appointment.
- Know that the Treatment Plan and the Financial Arrangement are very different activities and require different documents. You should go over each one with the patient and have them sign each one separately. This will avoid concerns about how they will pay for it or how much it will cost.
- Ask the patient how you can reach them during the day and get that number, so you can give them a courtesy call the day before the appointment. Many times patients provide numbers, none of which can reach them.
- Don’t continue scheduling patients that are compulsive appointment breakers. Be familiar with their broken appointment history before appointing them. They will continue doing the same thing over and over again. These folks do better when placed on a “Short Notice Call List” and called when there is a change in the schedule.
- Know that patients on government-sponsored programs tend to break more appointments.
- Remove the word “cancel” from your vocabulary. Make patients think it rarely happens. Avoid statements like “I will call you when/if we get a “CANCELLATION.”
- Let the patient know you are saving the appointment time just for them. Patients are used to going to their physician’s office [where five people are given the same appointment time] and having to wait. Let them know the dental office schedules differently.
- Always confirm early in the day, the day before the appointment. Don’t confirm too soon. If you are using an electronic method for confirmation send the e-mail three days in advance. If they confirm and no show, they should always get a phone call to confirm in the future. Do not send multiple texts and emails about appointments. You will find that the more control you have over your patients and schedule, the more comfortable you will be with confirming the day before. When you get the patient on the phone the most effective verbal skill is, “Hello Lisa, we are looking forward to seeing you at 10:00 am tomorrow for a root canal. We have an hour saved for you.” If this person was educated on root canals being a routine procedure, this patient’s fear should be handled. Many times “fear” is the reason they call back to cancel or never show up.
- Send a text or mail cards to patients scheduled on Mondays, especially after a long weekend. The weekend message should say, “We hope you are enjoying your weekend. We are looking forward to seeing you on Monday at [appointment time].” They should receive the physical card on Friday or Saturday. Your practice should mail it on Thursday after the confirmation call.
- Pay close attention to the tone of the patient’s voice while confirming. Never consider unacknowledged voicemails, emails and messages left, as a confirmed appointment. You must hear back from the patient.
- Younger patients are more likely to break appointments or no show.
- If you schedule patients too far in the future they are more likely to break the appointment.
- Know that the longer a patient has been a part of your practice, the less likely they will no show.
- Speak only to the patient when confirming.
Sandy Pardue is an internationally recognized lecturer, author and practice management consultant. She has assisted hundreds of doctors with practice expansion and staff development over the past 25 years. She is known for her comprehensive and interesting approach to dental office systems, and offers a refreshing point of view on how to become more efficient and productive in a dental practice. Sandy is director of consulting with Classic Practice Resources. She is also a consultant to leading dental companies for product evaluation and design. For more information, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.