5 Viable Lists to Fill Appointment Openings
Last minute cancellations or slow schedules ARE NOT EXCUSES TO NOT WORK!
A lame schedule does not mean everyone gets to have a long lunch or go home early.
Earlier, we discussed how to reduce missed appointments, but they still can happen. When they do, it is the front desk team's job to FIND patients to put in to the schedule. Remember–if there aren’t patients on the schedule, it becomes difficult for the business to pay office bills–so the schedule should always be filled. A great front desk team member sees those holes in the schedule as opportunities to put other patients in the schedule. Do not surrender to a slow schedule–ever!
Every day, the front desk should focus on filling TODAY’S schedule AND the NEXT business day’s schedule. If the front desk makes TODAY’S and the NEXT business day’s schedules a priority, then the practice will always be busy.
There are 5 viable lists within the practice management software, that when used correctly and consistently, will support filling last minute appointment openings. As long as the front desk team has taken good notes for each patient and that particular appointment need, then the front desk should be able to “work the schedule” and fill it up.
We try to avoid using the term ASAP as much as possible. Priority list sounds more professional and assures the patient their needs are a priority. When scheduling any type of appointment, always ask patients if an appointment becomes available sooner that fits their scheduling specifics, would they like to be called? Document their scheduling preferences, best contact method, mark the appointment for ASAP (in Dentrix), Quick ll (in Eaglesoft), sooner if possible (in Practiceworks) etc.
Documenting their preferences, saves you time and an unnecessary phone call if the available appointment doesn’t meet that patient’s needs. Anytime you contact the patient to try to reschedule, again, always document the conversation. Indicate the date, whether or not a message was left, was the patient unable to accept this appointment etc. If you have patient on your priority lists and their appointments do not have notes, you are doing yourself, and the patient, a great disservice!
Unscheduled List (Pending Page/Quick Fill)
Anytime a patient calls to cancel an appointment or no shows, the appointment should be noted (who canceled, why, when can we follow up) and then broken to be sent to the unscheduled list. NEVER EVER delete an appointment, unless a patient is not returning to the practice – in which case you still want to document the conversation.
What better way to make a positive connection than if a patient canceled, let’s say because they had the flu and you follow up in two weeks and start out the conversation with, “Are you feeling better?” Patients appreciate those details.
Past Due or Current Due Re-care List
Run your re-care lists to make prompt calls to those patients who are due, or past due for their hygiene visits. Contact those patients. You will notice that we actually recommend running a currently overdue re-care list once a week. The front desk should always have a current report of patients who are overdue at the front desk. This is an easy task to do when the front desk has a few free minutes.
Document every attempt and conversation in the practice management software.(Documentation on re-care calls also help you when it comes to your chart auditing system.)
Phone Message Log
You do have one of these, don’t you?
Anytime a patient leaves a message, it should be not only documented in his/her chart, but also on a phone message log kept by your phone. May seem a bit archaic, but keeping track of these messages is so important for rescheduling and connection purposes! It’s also helpful for front desk team members (and the doctor) to review call log entries made by other team members; that way everyone is familiar with who called the office and why. Highlight those patients that need an appointment and work this list consistently!
You can find these great logs at your local Office Max.
Pull Up Patients for Next Week
Start by looking for patients in the same time slot a week out, of course reading the appointment notes to see if there might be a reason they can’t be contacted to come in earlier. Be sure to check insurance benefits as well. You don’t want to have them come in too early and have the insurance company not cover the visit. Use the doctor name (or hygienist name) and state that they wanted you to give the patient a call to see if we might adjust their appointment from next Tuesday to this Tuesday.
Document to make sure if patient does adjust appointment, we thank them when they come in, or if they can’t adjust appointment, so they are not contacted again.