PMA | Proven Ways to Alleviate Failed Appointments

Proven Ways to Alleviate Failed Appointments

Donna C. Lowell

It seems whenever I ask a dentist or their staff what their most significant challenge is, the answer is often the same — failed appointments.

Educating the patient can alleviate the failed appointment dilemma. It has long been the patient perception that missing an appointment doesn’t affect the dental office. We in dentistry have contributed to this dilemma. I can’t tell you how often when a patient is canceling an appointment that I have heard the response, “Oh, that’s okay, let’s get you rescheduled.” How could a response like that, be interpreted by the caller, any other way than it’s not a problem to change an appointment? The education process begins with your first interaction with a patient. Letting them know you are setting aside a specific amount of time with the provider and asking them to choose a time that will work best with their schedule. Equipping the staff with the verbal skills to deal with last minute cancellations is vital. It has been our experience that 95% of the time when asking the patient attempting to cancel if there is any way they can keep the appointment since with such short notice you won’t be able to offer that time to another patient, the patient will do what it takes to keep the scheduled appointment. If the patient is unable to come for the appointment, DO NOT schedule them for the next day. By allowing the patient to reappoint the next day it only furthers the perception that last minute cancellations are okay. Even if the schedule is open, it is best to offer them time at least two weeks out. Often, they may keep the scheduled appointment when they realize they have a long wait to be seen. In the case of the “chronic offender,” my recommendation is to let them know that you will happily place them on your “on call” list and contact them when an appointment time opens unexpectedly. Being an on-call patient is especially necessary for the patient that is a frequent no-show. We should always deliver this message in a positive and upbeat manner as we never want our patients to feel wronged or punished. We are doing this for their benefit as well as ours. Having an on-call list is a valuable tool when those last-minute changes occur.

Equipping your staff with proven verbal skills to effectively educate your patients will improve patient behavior and alleviate your failed appointments. This proven equation will strengthen your team morale and increase your productivity.

This article was written by Donna C. Lowell co-founder of Practice Management Associates, LLC (206) 920-6217. For a no-charge consultation or questions regarding study club presentations, please call us! Copyright © 2018

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