No-shows and cancellations don’t normally come as a surprise, as most dental clinics face this problem one way or another. However, these occurrences should never be overlooked as they have a significant impact on the office’s productivity, as well as the workflow and morale. Instead, you should have a plan to help minimize the no-show and cancellation rate. There should also be mitigation tactics in place to further protect your dental practice from lost time and revenue.
To reduce the number of no-shows and cancellations, here are some effective ways you can try implementing into your practice:
Develop Patient Relationship
A common reason for no-shows or cancellations stems from the patient’s fear of dental visits and their lack of personal connection with the office.
Rather than treating your dental office like an emergency room, set your dental office apart from the competitors by adding your own personal touch. Encourage your staff to greet and make small talk with patients who arrive at the clinic. You can take it a step further and record small nuances about each client to make your interactions more intimate.
Building your rapport with the patients will help them feel more at ease and gain confidence in your practice. Rather than dreading their appointments, your patients will look forward to visiting, and on rare occasions even invite you to personal events such as birthday parties and weddings!
Tip: If you’re using Paradigm Clinical, you can add these details in the patient notes. Easily access these notes when the patient checks in to help you interact with them more personally.
Ensure Patients Are On-Board With Treatment
Many are too polite to refuse suggestions from their dentists. As a result, they book the appointment without fully understanding what and why certain procedures are needed. When a patient isn’t fully on-board with the prescribed treatment, they’re more prone to cancel or not show up afterwards.
At the end of each appointment, take a couple of minutes to educate your patient on proper oral care. Thoroughly explain why your patient needs to get certain procedures done as soon as possible and illustrate problems that can arise if their condition is left untreated.
When your patient is educated on their oral health and concerns that you have, they’re more receptive to your suggestions. As they know the treatment is something that is needed (rather than a frivolous or unnecessary procedure), they will more likely commit to their scheduled appointment.
Minimize Wait-Room Time
Regardless of the industry, patients expect their time to be respected when they go to their appointments. Many find it frustrating when they have to wait too long to be seen. If they’ve previously experienced long wait-room times, they are more likely to feel deterred from arriving on time or even showing up at all. After all, why should they respect your time if they don’t feel that you’re respecting theirs?
Keeping your wait-room times as short as possible will greatly improve your patients’ experience and avoid them thinking their time could have been better spent. One option is to implement a small buffer time between appointments to mitigate the effects of any over-run appointments. In turn, your office workflow won’t be interrupted and your patients will be seen on time.
Realistically, there will always be days where longer wait-times are inevitable. In these instances, a comfortable waiting area with an ample amount of entertainment (TV, magazines, ambient music, etc.) and/or refreshments will help improve your patient’s experience at the office and still leave a positive impression.
Enforce a Cancellation Policy
Late-cancellations are frustrating, as you’ll end up losing money if you aren’t able to schedule someone into the time slot on such short notice. However, show your compassion if a late-cancellation is due to unfortunate circumstances (death in the family, severe illness, accidents, etc.). Offer your condolences and re-book their appointment at a convenient time.
On the other hand, if you’re noticing a trend of late-cancellations without good reason, consider establishing a cancellation policy involving penalties. For example, allow your patients a set number of late-cancellations/late-reschedules a year. Any subsequent late-changes will result in being billed a portion of their fees.
Make sure to clearly state these conditions to your patients to avoid any backlash if you were to charge them. This may also not be the optimal solution if there is a lot of competition near your office, as you could risk losing the patient to another dental practice.
Tip: Keep track of these no-show and cancellations with the rating system in Paradigm Clinical. This will help you identify which patients are most likely to do so in the future and prepare a backup plan.
Many missed appointments are simply because the patient forgot they had one, especially bookings made months in advance. The best way to combat this problem is to call or send out timely reminders and confirmations.
An automated system that sends out reminders saves offices a lot of time and reduces the risk of missed patients. Dental practice software, such as Paradigm Clinical, can give you the option to schedule SMS messages so that you don’t have to remember to do so manually. You can also schedule reminders for phone calls if you want to be more personable.
No matter how you plan to contact your patients, it is important to get their consent. Take this opportunity to also find out what their preferred method of contact is, as this will improve their response rates. Not all patients want to receive email or text reminders if they don’t use technology often, so a phone call would be more effective.
Ease Of Rescheduling
The ease of rescheduling can affect your no-shows and late cancellations. Patients may not be available to call the office and rebook an appointment if they’re occupied with another task. By the time they’re free to call back, the office may already be closed for the day and they may then forget to rebook by the time it reopens.
Having a system (e.g. an online booking page) that allows patients to change their booking anywhere and anytime can be beneficial for your practice. They can conveniently make the adjustment as soon as a schedule conflict arises, regardless of the time. This would help you free up the time slot automatically for booking another patient.
Offer Incentives And Acknowledgements
Add an incentive as a fun way to encourage your patients to keep their appointments and show up on time. You can do so through discounts or prizes.
For example, you can grant your patients discounts to certain services for coming to their appointments without rebooking last-minute. You can also enter your patients’ names into a draw if they came for a visit on-time that month.
If incentives aren’t a viable option for your office, showing appreciation for your patient’s timeliness goes a long way. Thank them for their visit to motivate them to do the same for their next appointment.
While these tricks can help reduce the number of no-shows and cancellations, it’s hard to completely eliminate these occurrences. Personal matters (e.g. family emergencies, accidents, etc.) crop up and will take precedence over a dental appointment. As a result, they won’t be available to notify your office on time.
When no-shows happen, connect with your patient to show that you care and make sure everything is okay. Depending on the circumstances, you can also help them rebook their appointment. For late-cancellations, keep a list of patients who are looking to come sooner on short notice. This will give you a better opportunity to fill in these time slots.