Dental Patients Arriving Late Policy
Dental patients arriving late can cause stress for everyone in the dental practice. It’s stressful, because we feel it is out of our control. And although we cannot force our patients to be on time, we can create a system to manage late patients. This is truly a team decision and a team effort. But we will take a look at the role of the dental front office in this too.
Dental patients arriving late are greeted warmly! It’s important that the dental front office greet the patient well. This is not the time to punish or condemn anyone. We are greeting a friend! And we are happy to see them. Most likely, your patient already knows they are late. And they will most likely apologize profusely. Tell your patient you are glad they made it. Avoid saying “it’s okay”.
Even if treatment can’t be completed, this discussion doesn’t happen at the front desk. The clinician should take the patient back to the treatment room before any discussion takes place. After all, the this is their appointment time. Maybe there is time to still do something dental! But if not, let this conversation happen in a quiet treatment room. Not in a busy reception and front office area!
Chronically Late Patients
Every dental practice has one of these. Hopefully just one! As one is more than enough to manage well. And don’t be fooled. This particular patient has poor time management everywhere! They are not just late with your office. But in order to decide how to best manage your patient, we have to weigh in some other factors as well.
Dental Patients Arriving Late Management
First, I would call 5 minutes past the appointment time. That’s a given for every patient who isn’t in the office 5 minutes past their appointment time. If you are sent to voicemail, leave a message. If you have the ability to text, send a text. And if you can send an email, do that too. Try every venue available to you. You can text or email something like this: “Hi John. This is April @ Dr. Brown’s Dental Office. Checking to see if you are on your way? We had you scheduled for 2:00! Please let us know. Thank You.”
Consider adding extra time to the appointment when you schedule. Or schedule the patient at a time during the day that is least likely to cause a big problem. Never schedule the patient on a day that is over-booked. And don’t hesitate to let your patient know that their scheduled treatment may not be completed if they arrive late. If you make a conscious decision to keep this patient on board, it is going to have an impact. Sometimes the benefits do outweigh the impact. Only you can decide that.
Our Role at the Front Desk
So, what exactly is the role of the dental front office? First and foremost to be kind, courteous, and professional. And to avoid all manner of judgement, criticism, and condemnation. Our role at the dental front office is to gather information, advise the team of what’s happening, and to be ready.
Replace “it’s okay” with “I understand”. The last thing we want to do is encourage tardiness. And it’s never “okay”. Even if there is a very good reason someone is late. But keep a positive tone and vibe. And it’s better to “understand” a patient’s reason than to fully accept it. Our role at the front office is critical. Our tone is more important than I can say.