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How to address dental appointment no-shows

June 12, 2018

It can be maddening; you are all set up for your next hygiene patient and the hour comes and goes with no sign of your patient.  Your highly trained, well-paid hygienist is now stocking supplies instead of helping someone improve their oral (and systemic) health.  It happens more often than any of us care to admit.  Lost opportunities can really add up over the course of a week or month.  Some estimate it could be more than $6 million in lost revenue throughout a dental career. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Take the time to implement a few extra steps to help your dental practice run like a finely tuned machine.

Appointment Reminders

Are you taking a one and done approach to reminding patients? Although it takes time to implement a multifaceted appointment reminder system, it will be worth it in the long run.  There are many options available in the marketplace but practice management software like YAPI  (and there are many) can help keep dental appointments top of mind for patients and offer their proven, best practice approach to communicating upcoming visits on various platforms. The purpose is not to annoy your patient but to recognize that life is busy and you are here to help patients get the care they need.

Run a tight ship

On the same note, no one has time to wait on a dental office that is running behind. Not only does this irritate patients, it can position your practice for a bad online review.  In the mind of the patient, it also discredits you as a doctor. Be a wo/man of your word.

  • Keep regular hours that patients can consistently rely on. It frustrates patients to call an office that says it is open and yet they cannot get anyone on the phone.
  • Do not reschedule patients unless absolutely necessary and do not overbook.
  • Consider a prepayment discount-it is a service for patients and gives them a greater sense of commitment to honoring the appointment

Patients are following your lead, be certain you are setting the right example.

Be nice

This may seem obvious but people do business with people they like.  And you are running a business, the service you offer is dentistry. We suggest the four-minute rule in our dental practice. Clinicians spend about 4 minutes discussing anything other than teeth. We always try to keep conversation light and positive but take a genuine interest in the lives of our patients. This type of rapport can go a long way if your schedule gets derailed and a patient is not seen at their appointment time. As a general rule, people will try not to disappoint people they like. Be likeable and ensure that your team is doing the same.

Be kind but firm

When patients continue to disrespect your time, you have to show them that you are serious about respecting their time, the well-being of your team and time of your other patients with a set cancellation policy and subsequent fee. This is often enough to stop them from becoming repeat offenders.

As hard as you work to attract patients, sometimes you have to let go. It is a difficult decision to dismiss a patient. However, you must ask yourself- are you actually benefitting from a repeat no show offender? Work with your partner, a business consultant or your office manager to determine the threshold for dismissal.

Want more information on how to be the master of your dental practice schedule? Join Dr. Bobbi Stanley at her next Dental Entrepreneur Summit

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