Appointment cancellations and no shows can severely impact your dental practice's bottom line. Here's what you can do about it.
Understand Why Patients Cancel
Before you begin developing strategies to reduce cancellations and no shows, it's important to understand why patients cancel and what motivates them to miss their appointments.
Frequently, it simply boils down to not wanting to deal with the experience of getting dental work done. Taking the time off work, going to the appointment, and of course, the entire time in the chair is something many patients don't look forward to. They may decide to try to reschedule at the last minute, cancel their appointment, or even just not show up for their visit.
Empower Your Administrative Staff to Connect with Patients When They Schedule
It's easier for patients to cancel appointments with dental providers that they don't feel a connection with. If they feel like just another set of teeth or a chart number, they may feel less of an obligation to keep their appointment.
Allow your administrative staff - often the first point of contact for patients - to build rapport with them over the phone. Use their name in conversation and make an effort to have a meaningful conversation about the patient's dental concerns or even just an everyday topic. Administrative staff should strive to make patients feel like your practice is invested in them already, even before they walk in the door.
Get Patients in Right Away
Patients may be on the fence about getting dental work done, but if they're on the phone making an appointment, you want to try to strike while their decision is still hot.
Offer patients any open appointments within the next three days. If you don't have any, ask the patient for a date that works for them. If you don't have anything available for some time, offer to put patients on a cancellation list so they're contacted via email, text, or phone call that an appointment has opened up, and they can call your office if they're interested in taking the slot.
Educate Patients on Treatment Recommendations
Often, patients will cancel because they don't understand or agree with your treatment recommendations. It may be more dental work than they were expecting, and they may be surprised at their treatment plan. They may automatically second-guess your recommended treatment simply because they aren't on the same page about their dental care.
Take a few extra minutes to educate your patient about why you're recommending certain dental procedures. Be as specific to that patient and their individual oral health conditions as you can; this helps patients better connect with the treatment plan than if you illustrate the treatment plan with too broad a brush.
Identify Patients Who are at a Higher Risk for Cancellation
Some patients are more likely to cancel or not show up to their appointments than others. You can identify risk factors for your patient base and practice. Then, you can use those insights to help you develop strategies to address those issues head-on. For example, patients with one kind of insurance may historically cancel frequently at your practice or patients that book too far out on the schedule may not come in because they've forgotten about their appointment.
Make an effort to reduce the chances of a cancellation or no show by employing strategies in the moment, such as scheduling a patient as quickly as possible or putting patients at a higher risk of cancellation in certain schedule slots to reduce the negative impact on the practice if they don't show.
Inform Patients About Your Cancellation and No Show Policies
Your dental practice likely has a cancellation or no show policy already, but if not, it's time to develop one. Cancellation policies help establish boundaries for how patients can and cannot move their appointments, and what consequences they may potentially incur if they choose not to adhere to office policy.
Let your patients know what your policies are a few different ways. Post a sign at your reception area that summarizes the policy. Then print the details on a page with a signature line for patients to sign that they acknowledge and agree with the policy along with their other paperwork.
Frustrated by Cancellations in Your Dental Practice? Building Rapport with Patients May Be Key
Cancellations and no shows can be exceptionally frustrating, because not only do they impact the flow of your practice for the day, but they also cut into your bottom line. One of the most important things you can do to prevent cancellations is to build strong relationships with your patients. Patients often still look forward to seeing dentists that make them feel important and cared for, even if they don't much like the purpose of the appointment.
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