Scheduling is one of those aspects of dentistry that can be considered ‘make or break’. You either do a good job scheduling appointments (and getting patients to keep them) and your business prospers, or you struggle with scheduling and your practice begins to decline (along with your revenue). Even if you’re great at scheduling, but you’re constantly faced with no show patients, or patients who show up late or cancel, it’s clear something must be done. How to keep patients from canceling appointments?
The fact is, you will never stop no show patients and cancellations from happening. Even during the best of times, broken appointments are not uncommon. In fact, surveys have shown that broken appointments account for 10% of all dentistry treatments. But this can quickly add up, with some practices facing losses of $40K and above just due to broken appointments alone.
You’re probably wondering how to keep patients from canceling appointments, so I’m going to share the six secrets you can start using right now. These will improve productivity, increase the success of your practice, and ease loads of stress these no show patients and broken appointments typically cause.
If you want a dental marketing company that will help you build a marketing plan designed to book high-quality new patients that respect your time, value, and expertise (minimizing no-shows), then click below to schedule your Marketing Assessment Call.
Six Secrets for Making Patient Appointments Hard to Miss
In order to encourage your patients to show up for every appointment, you must make it difficult for those patients to even consider skipping your dental session to begin with. This starts with proper communication.
Communication and Verbal Skills
Whether it’s an initial phone call, a thorough exam or the placing of a dental implant, the dentist and staff should maintain a positive attitude and a friendly demeanor when interacting with the patient. Make the patient feel like a friend or better - family. Make notes in patient files that indicate goals they’re reaching for and other personal details. These can then be commented on later to improve familiarity and trust.
When it comes time to discuss the patient’s first or follow-up appointment, push the benefits of the appointment, as well as the possible risks involved for not showing up.
For example, “John, we have you scheduled for March 13, which is when Dr. Smith will perform that tooth extraction. Once that tooth is out, you’ll have no more pain, especially when eating, and we’ll be able to schedule the dental implant appointment. Now remember, if you don’t show up for the tooth extraction, we won’t be able to get you in for at least six months. So you have to show up for that appointment if you want the pain to go away and to have your new smile sooner.”
Notice how the benefits and risks are repeated for clarity, yet they are implemented seamlessly into the phone conversation? This small part of dental front office training can decrease your no-shows, even for the most uncomfortable procedures.
If a patient is not going to show up for an appointment, you should know about it very early on. To help with this, consider confirming appointments throughout the morning, for example, starting at 9AM. It’s best to have a positive demeanor during appointment confirmation. If you’re experiencing an increase in no show patients and broken appointments, consider confirming each appointment two days in advance.
Offer Same Day Dentistry
If you’re not already, consider offering same day appointments for those people who find it inconvenient to come back for follow-up treatment. This will take some moving around so that you can fit additional procedures into your daily schedule, but it can help to eliminate the effects of no show patients and cancellations in many cases.
No Tolerance Policy
Some doctor’s offices state in their new patient paperwork that they simply will not tolerate appointment cancellations, late appointments or no show patients. One practice barred patients from appointments for six months for a single broken appointment. Although allowances were made for emergency treatments and walk-ins when time permitted, you don’t have to go to that extreme, but you can try to penalize patients as a last resort.
Broken Appointment Fee
Another last resort is to charge a fee, such as $25, for broken appointments or no show patients. Some offices require 24-48 hours notice, or the $25 will be charged. While adding fees to the patient’s bill might deter no show patients or cancellations, it doesn’t fill the lost time or productivity.
Quickly Fill the Time with Emergency & Same Day Dental Patients
Reducing no shows patients and cancellations is all about using your time wisely, and being able to adjust when necessary. If you experience no show patients, don’t wait until another patient takes you up on your same-day dentistry offer (in secret 3). Instead, start actively offering another patient that same-day appointment slot. Your front office staff should be well-trained to do this, so that you can fill any open time, make up the revenue, and provide extra convenience for patients that are waiting to get in to see you.
In the face of no show patients or late/cancelled appointments, try to get the person on the phone. Ask if there is anything you, or anyone at the practice, can do to help the patient make their appointment that day (or whichever date you’re confirming). Stress the benefits of keeping the appointment and the risks of not showing up, and ensure that the person knows how much time the doctor has allotted for the treatment in question.
Put these six secrets into place if you desperately need to get your no show patients and cancellations under control. With a system in place and proper training , you’ll be well on your way to a more productive practice. You’ll also reduce plenty of stress, which is always good for business.
If you want a dental marketing company that will help you build a marketing plan designed to get high-quality new patients, that respect your time, value, and expertise (& minimizing no-shows), then click below to schedule your Marketing Assessment Call.