For the past 3 years dentists have been calling my office to ask “Debbie, how can I stop all these last minute cancellations?!” and “Debbie, how can I stop the bleeding of my hygiene schedule? Look at all these holes in the schedule!”
The calls from more dentists continue and I continue to create more and more solutions for the new callers and the offices that still feel stuck and have not implemented any of the suggestions.
I am sorry to say but listening to be give solutions is not going to stop the cancellations and the bleeding. There will always be emergency situations in your patient’s lives that cause them to call and cancel. The situation is that will never be able to completely eliminate cancellations. This is a fact of life. What you can do is eliminate the cancellations and no-shows that occur because your patients do not consider their dental appointment important.
Today, I write about strategies to consider and eliminate or at least decrease your last-minute and/or no-show appointments down to a very low number week.
1. Identify patients with a history of last minute cancellations and no-shows. You need to create a different strategy to work with these patients.
2. Do not call and confirm patients appointments and then ask them to call back to verify they received your message. This will only invite them to call you back and cancel their appointment.
3. Do not allow patients to call and leave an appointment cancellation on your voicemail or answering service. Your message needs to state that your office doesn’t not accept cancellation messages. The only way a patient can cancel an appointment is to speak to someone live in your office.
4. When a patient is known for cancelling appointments short notice and/or no-showing for their appointments do not allow them to reschedule an appointment within a 2 week period. Do not allow these patients to think that your time is not valuable and they can return to your office quickly. These patients may need to be on a “short-notice” call list.
5. When you do call a patient to confirm an appointment, say phrases such as “Susan is looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at 2pm for your preventive care appointment. Please take your Amoxicillin one hour prior to your appointment and we will see you then.” That is all. Stop saying things like “This is Dr. Jones’s office calling to confirm your cleaning tomorrow at 2pm. Can you please call me back to let me know you have received this message?”
6. Stay connected with your patients in between their dental appointments. This can be done through an office newsletter, text messages and social media. I suggest that every office have an office Fan page. Communicate at least once a day when you are working at the office. If you have a special running or contest post this on your fan page. Let patients know you have the fan page and give them a chance to “Like” your page while they are in your office. Many offices today have an iPad in the treatment rooms and/or reception area which can assist your patients with writing a review and “liking” your page while they are in your office.
7. WIIFM syndrome. It seems to be typical these days for people to be motivated to do something because there is something in it for them. Offices seem to have a decrease in short-notice cancellations and no-shows when they offer free whitening touch-ups to their hygiene patients. Patients are rewarded for continually showing up for their dental appointments. When patients do not cancel short-notice or no-show they qualify to receive 2 syringes of whitening for free. 1 syringe 2 times a year. Forever White™ is the same premium ingredients but for about 60% less money. The syringes are individually packaged and the size of each syringe is 25% larger than most whitening product syringes.
There are numerous ways you can reduce those short-notice cancellations and eliminate the constant no-shows. The most important thing you can do is to choose one of these 7 tips and implement at least 1 of these today. Meet with your team and set some goals to implement more of these suggestions. Monitor your success and remember to celebrate your successes.
Debbie Seidel- Bittke, RDH, BS is founder of Dental Practice Solutions. Debbie has immersed herself in the science, systems, services and methodologies that create success and profitability in a dental practice, beginning with increasing the bottom line in the dental hygiene department. She writes for numerous dental journals, speaks at dental conferences nationally and for seven years in a row, she has been known as one of Dentistry Today’s Top Consultants.