Reduce Broken Dental Appointments Now
Reduce broken dental appointments or eliminate them almost entirely! Of course, no one can predict everything that happens in life. Cars break down. People get sick. And unexpected elements present themselves in our day. But there are steps we can take to reduce broken dental appointments every day.
Let’s start with today. Because today is always the most important day in your dental practice. At least, when we are talking about schedules. So, let’s take a look at today. And see what we can to make sure every patient on the schedule shows up!
Reduce Broken Dental Appointments With Reinforcements
Review the office reschedule policy when you make an appointment with a patient. Keep the tone light and make eye contact during each and every one of these conversations. And ask your patient to commit! Here’s an example for you:
“Okay, Mrs. Jones. I have you on the schedule for Thursday, May 3rd at 2:00. We are going to ask you just one more thing. If you could, please, give us 2 business day’s notice, should you need to reschedule? ” Then, wait for your patient to respond. Don’t be in a hurry to say anything. Hold this pause until they commit. The patient should commit to call the office should they need to reschedule within your policy requests.
Ask for a commitment from your patient. If your patient does not say “yes, I can do that” or something similar, ask again! “Mrs. Jones, are you able to call us at least 2 business days if you find you need to reschedule this appointment, please?” And don’t move forward with anything until you get that agreement! Here is some additional help for you with this!
Reduce Broken Dental Appointments With Words
Recently, I was asked to produce a script for broken appointments. And I’m happy to do that. We’ll get to that in a moment. But what’s even more important, is to avoid a broken appointment altogether! And we can do this by watching our words and our communication techniques prior to the scheduled appointment. I promise it works!
There really should be very few instances when a broken appointment occurs. Especially if you an follow my outline on how to communicate most effectively. So, let’s keep moving forward on today’s schedule!
Reduce Broken Dental Appointments By Re-Confirming
Hopefully, you have an automated confirmation and communication system. And this system offers your patients their preference of confirmations. Be that a text message, an email, or a phone call. But there may be some patients on your schedule today that have not confirmed. All unconfirmed appointments must be confirmed. Make another phone call.
Consider checking unconfirmed appointments a day in advance. If I’m unable to confirm a patient the day before, I may just remove them from the schedule. Especially if I have any doubt at all that the patient will show up! Of course, I will always notify the patient that I am going to remove them from my schedule. And I will even give them a deadline to respond to the confirmation. And then I plug in a waiting patient that I know absolutely wants that appointment!
What if that scheduled patient gets upset? It could happen. But my goal was to have a completely productive and confirmed schedule. I didn’t intend to upset anyone. And quite honestly, not responsible for that patient’s response. Communication was clear. A confirmation was requested. Notice was given. I explained what would happen if I didn’t hear back. The office can offer to reschedule this particular patient and to call them with anything sooner. That’s really the very best we can do.
Reduce Broken Dental Appointments By Identifying A High Risk
This won’t happen often. But a patient who doesn’t confirm or respond must learn what we need them to do. And it’s always a good idea, if we don’t know a patient well, to run this by the doc before removing someone from the schedule. Our doc just might know something about the patient we don’t. So, tread slowly and thoughtfully here. Give your doc the opportunity to have some input too. And decide together how to move forward.
Identify high risk patients! Is there anyone on the schedule today that has missed an appointment before? This is definitely a red flag. Not that they can’t redeem themselves, but you want to watch this. Maybe even mark the accounts when a patient misses an appointment. Find a way to make a note, in the patient field somewhere. I like to use a number. For example ” *1 ” Would notify me right away, that a patient has missed 1 appointment. In case I forget!
Reduce Broken Dental Appointments With Solid Financing
Financial presentations must be solid when an appointment is scheduled. No confusion and absolute clarity are vital. If a patient gets nervous or scared, or seems unsure, they may just fail or call at the last minute to cancel. I consider any last minute cancellation, a broken appointment. And even though we can still try to save the appointment time, it’s a missed appointment! And I have a definite method of handling patients who frequently reschedule.
Pre-payments are great appointment insurance policies. If you have trouble with patients missing appointments, or rescheduling short notice, try it! A patient is less likely to fail an appointment they have already paid for! You may be able to offer a small discount if the patient does not have insurance. Or just make it policy. That your patients reserve their appointment time.
Offer Financial Options
The office can even offer pre-payment plans. For patients who say they cannot pay all at once, encourage weekly or monthly payments in advance of treatment. It works! I managed finances for a pediatric practice that provided dentistry under general anesthesia for it’s very young patients or handicapped patients. Many families had great financial obligations. But pre-payment plans worked for them!
Be creative and make a way. But don’t extend payment beyond the treatment date. At least not an in-office payment plan. There are outside financing options available for patients needing dentistry. And you may want to consider offering one of those options to your patients. But if a patient runs up a balance with your practice they can’t pay, they may start missing appointments. Or just go to another office altogether!
Reduce Broken Appointments By Calling Late Patients
Despite our best efforts, sometimes patients simply forget! We might have the best automated confirmation system and our patient received a reminder 2 hours before their appointment. Yet still, they somehow managed to forget. But maybe they work just down the street. And they can be at the office in no time! So call five minutes into the appointment. It’s not too soon! And it also lets them know you expect them to be on time!
Is there anyone who needs a call right before their appointment? I’ve known those who do! And sometimes I just couldn’t pull it off! I had a million other things going on! But if you do have someone on your schedule today that might need a little extra reminder, and you can make it happen, what’s the harm?
What To Do When Someone Does Miss Their Dental Appointment!
There will be a missed appointment now and then. And hopefully, it is just now and then! Especially if you are taking all of these great steps to make sure everyone keeps their dental appointments! So, be sure that you always give your patient the benefit of the doubt first! Assume they mean no harm. And that they have all the best intentions.
If you are calling a patient 5 minutes into their appointment, you have opportunity here. You will either reach their voicemail or speak to them directly. Let’s say you reach your patient. You simply say, “Hi Mr. Jones. This is April at Dr. Brown’s dental office. How are you? Good! Dr. Brown’s looking for you! Are you on your way to the office now?” Mr. Jones says he has been caught in a meeting that ran late and he wasn’t aware of the time. Then what? Pause. Then ask Mr. Jones if you could call him back to reschedule.
You will want to give yourself a moment to regroup. And to let your team know there is now an open appointment time. Your doc may also want to advise you on how to manage this reschedule and situation. Be sure to get all of your ducks in a row, so to speak, before rescheduling. And call Mr. Jones back soon, but when everything is in place, and you have some time to talk.
Leaving A Message For A Missed Appointment
When unable to reach a patient who missed an appointment, we may need to leave a message. Again, keep the tone light and think the best. We communicate our feelings and thoughts more than we are sometimes aware. And we want to believe in best intent! So, we just ask for a call back. Here’s the script: “Hi, Mr. Jones! This is April at Dr. Brown’s dental office. I’m calling to see if you might be on your way to the office. Maybe we’ll see you walk in soon! I hope so.. but if we miss you today.. please call me at 888-8888. Thank you so much. Hope all is well”.
You’ll need to decide what to do with those who miss appointments. And I believe everyone gets one free pass. I also believe that repeat missed appointments is a problem. If it is one person that misses appointments, the problem is that particular patient. However, if there are many missed appointments in the schedule, there is a system problem.