Reconfirming Unconfirmed Dental Appointments Is Necessary!
Reconfirming unconfirmed dental appointments is absolutely necessary to help maintain control of the daily schedule. And this is true for both the hygiene schedule and the restorative schedule as well. Try not to operate from the fear that an appointment may open up with a reconfirmation call! Because when we have an open appointment to fill on short notice, we do maintain control. While a broken dental appointment leaves us with nothing but an unplanned opening.
A confirmed dental appointment requires an actual conversation with a scheduled patient. It’s a conversation that includes the appointment date, the day of the week, the time of day, and the procedure. Or, the appointment may also be confirmed with a text message or email message that state the same. Patients can be easily confused at times in our fast-paced world. And a patient might think they are having a hygiene appointment, even when they just had their routine hygiene visit last month! In reality, the patient is on the schedule for a crown. And you wonder “How could they not know this?”. But sometimes, patients remember what they want to remember! So, a reminder of any financial responsibility is great too!
Communicate The Office Confirmation Policy
We want to communicate our office confirmation policy during our initial conversations with patients. Leave no doubt in the patient’s mind that all appointments require a confirmation from them. And that the office will reach out to them with text, phone, and email. Make it light and keep it fun! But let’s be sure to tell them that we’ll even send out our own office patrol squad if necessary! (Just Kidding)
Seriously though, let’s make sure every patient knows what’s expected of them. And let them know our dentist is very serious about appointment confirmations. It’s okay to blame the dentist! In fact, it might even work better. But we do want to keep the conversation as fun as possible. and maybe say something like this:
“Dr. Brown has such a great practice! And even has patients on a wait list for appointment times! So, we will call you to confirm two days before your appointment. And Dr. Brown does want us to actually speak to you or receive a confirmed text message back! And because I love my job…. I’ll keep trying until I reach you. Or until Dr. Brown instructs me to take you off the schedule, which he just may do. We do ask that you provide us with 2 days’ notice if you need to reschedule your appointment. Are you able to do this for us?”
Say what works for you! But come up with a script that the entire team can use each time. And stick to it! Consistency is so important for patients. If they find one little chink the armor, it’s all over!
Reconfirming Unconfirmed Dental Appointments 24-Hours Before
Hopefully, the dental office confirms all scheduled appointments 2 business days prior to the actual appointment. This allows the dental front office team to review the schedule the day before the actual appointment one more time. Every appointment that has not been confirmed via text, email, or by voice, receives one more attempt. Call the work number, the cell number, in fact, call every number associated with that patient’s account.
What happens when we are unable to reach our unconfirmed patient? Review this unconfirmed appointment with the dentist. Together, the team can decide what’s best. Do you want to give this patient the benefit of the doubt? Or do you want to remove the patient from the appointment altogether? The patient’s history and standing in the practice will determine the next course of action.
When You Decide to Remove Unconfirmed Appointments.
There have been times when I have removed an unscheduled appointment from the schedule. But I do like to leave a message before I remove an appointment from the schedule. I will let my patient know they must confirm the appointment by a certain time. Or I will need to to release their scheduled appointment. The message would go something like this:
“Hi Jane. This is April at Dr. Brown’s dental office. I hope you are able to call me back today to confirm your appointment with Dr. Brown. You do have a scheduled crown appointment tomorrow, that’s Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m. I am sending you a text and an email right now as well. This appointment must be confirmed today by 2:00. You can confirm by text, or email. Or you could also give me a call here at 888-8888. I’ll talk to you soon.”
Reconfirming Unconfirmed Dental Appointments Is Not An “Out”
Some argue that requiring a confirmation like this gives the scheduled patient an “out”. I do not share this belief. I would rather have total control over my schedule. And not leave this in the hands of unpredictable patients. Plus, I always have my wait list of patients to move forward. I’ve spent time talking with each and every patient on my schedule. As I schedule appointments, I ask patients if they would like to move forward on the schedule if possible.
Once the decision is made to remove an unconfirmed patient, I leave one more message. And I always assume my patient has the best intention. And maybe an unexpected life circumstance has presented itself to them. My final message would be something like this:
“Hi Jane. It’s April at Dr. Brown’s dental office. Sorry to have missed you again. I spoke with Dr. Brown just now. And he’s sure something unexpected must have come up for you. We all hope you are okay. And would love to hear back when you get the chance. Dr. Brown’s asked that I release your appointment from his schedule tomorrow. But we will get you in as soon as we can. Please, give us a call to let us know you are well, and to discuss a time that might work for you to reschedule. I’ll talk to you soon. Our number here is 888-8888.”
Follow-Up With A Card
Send a simple card to the patient you remove from the schedule. Have some little note cards made up with your logo or photo on it. And be sure to have the dentist write a little note inside. The note can be as simple as “Hope all is well. Dr. Brown”. or “I’m sorry we missed you. Please call me. Dr. Brown”. Just a sincere, simple note to encourage your patient to let you know what’s happening.
Once the patient calls, they can also go on a short-call list. It very well may be there was a family emergency. Or even a simple misunderstanding of some kind. But the office didn’t lose out on appointment. And reconfirming that unconfirmed dental appointment allows the dental team as a whole to best manage their daily schedule with fewer surprises.