A year ago, when the pandemic started, dentists were faced with large uncertainties. The lockdown prevented dental offices from opening, with no guaranteed timeline to re-open. Rescheduling patients was inevitable, as well as cancellations. With so many unknowns, some even considered transitioning and selling their practice earlier than planned.
As dental offices reopened for non-essential services, dentists had to ask patients for patience as they tackled their backlog. Any no-shows and/or cancellations would hinder the progress and would mean a loss in profit. This is especially detrimental when offices already have less time to see patients, as more time is dedicated to sanitization and sterilization.
Keep patients updated
As the COVID-19 cases continue to fluctuate, it is difficult to predict regulation changes from the government. This uncertainty can lead to patients cancelling their appointments as a precaution to minimize their risk of exposure. Some may even assume a lockdown equates to dental offices being closed and not show up for their appointment.
To minimize any confusion and no-shows, it is important to keep your patients informed. Every time the COVID-19 guidelines change, send your patients a newsletter to let them know if there are (or aren’t) any changes to your operating hours. You can also send a text to all patients with upcoming appointments to update them. Finally, keep your updates easily accessible by posting on your social media as well.
Automate reminders and confirmations
Patients can often forget about their appointments so reminders and confirmations ensure that they don’t miss their appointment. Rather than following up with patients one-by-one, automate this process.
With Paradigm Clinical, you can easily set automatic text messages that send out a link for patients to confirm their appointment. You can also set a schedule for the reminders to be sent (e.g. 1 week before, 2 days before, etc.). This is especially effective since most people always have their phones on them.
Contact and reschedule no-shows right away
Having some no-shows are still inevitable, even after you’ve sent your patient reminders. It happens! Patients might not call back when they’ve realized they missed their appointment due to the awkwardness.
Take initiative to reach out first to show your concern for them. Let them know these things happen and it’s okay. Although you may have lost some profit from an empty time slot, you build your patient relationship by showing that you care.
This is also the best opportunity to book the patient back in for their procedures, as patients who have missed their original appointment will most likely put extra effort into arriving on time for their new appointment.
Keep a waitlist
Late-cancellations happen when patients suddenly change their minds, or something drastic has happened. But this shouldn’t be a surprise to any dental clinic. This is why keeping a waitlist is important for filling in these last-minute availabilities.
The My Contact Pro module for Paradigm lets you look up patients on the waitlist as well as the ASAP list. You can then choose who you want to contact and let them know there’s an opening available. Rather than sending a message to the entire list, we recommend checking the patient profiles to find out who has more urgent procedures first.
If you don’t get a response from the first set of patients you contact, move on to the next set until the appointment slot is filled.
Pay attention to patients who need more reminders
Your appointment schedule can be easily thrown off when patients don’t arrive on time or forget to come. Keeping track of patients and their ‘track records’ is a good way to identify individuals with these tendencies.
For patients who do arrive late often, you can help set them up for success by sending them extra reminders. In some cases, give them a call on the day of their appointment.
Offices need to do anything they can to keep no-shows and late-cancellations at a minimum. This allows offices to work through their backlogs without hindrance and prevents unnecessary profit loss.
What are some other ways you’ve tried that successfully reduced no-shows and cancellations? We’d love to know in the comments below!