Patients break dental appointments for many reasons.
In order to better understand the solutions to this problem, let’s better understand a dental patient.
For a variety of reasons, only a fraction of the American population visit the dentist on a regular basis. Most people only go when there is an immediate dental need.
Unfortunately, many Americans do not place value on their dental care and will most likely allow other expenses (vacations, big screen TVs, and even the vet) to take precedence over their oral health. It’s a sad fact, but we’ve all had patients tell us they couldn’t afford a crown because they were going on vacation.
We know dentistry is important, and we all try every day to educate our patients and to make dental treatment as comfortable and convenient as possible for them. However, it doesn’t help our cause when society makes it so easy for the population to groan at our profession. Ask anyone off the street how they feel about going to the dentist and, well…you get the idea.
Dentistry is a service based industry. We are not selling products per se, we are selling time and future opportunity. When a patient breaks an appointment, it is detrimental to a practice because our livelihoods survive on patients making in into our office. Once time and money are lost, they cannot be reclaimed.
Here’s the recap:
- People do not value dentistry the way we dental professionals do.
- We are service based and DEPEND on our patients to make it into our offices.
That’s quite the dilemma isn’t it? They don’t like to visit us, but we really need them to come in. It’s no wonder that offices continue to struggle with broken appointments!
Our solutions for broken appointment problems have come from understanding the dental patient mentality. They may not value dentistry or our time, but they DO value their own money.
Let’s break this down into three main categories for a general dental office.
A new patient has no relationship with your office aside from that initial phone call. Although I’m sure your receptionist is helpful and kind on the phone, it’s not enough to guarantee that the new patient will come into the office. It’s just plain easy for them to end up breaking that first appointment with you. Dental phobias, money, forgetfulness, insurance, or other obligations can consume a patient’s mind and then those things come before that dental visit.
I created the New Patient Reservation System. With this system, your patients will understand that your office takes appointments seriously. This system will SET THE BAR for future reservations at your office. Patients will not only show up for their first visit, they will be more likely to accept treatment and return for subsequent visits. Patients will also bend over backwards to let you know when they need to reschedule a time with your office. This system will also weed out any red flag patients. People who will give you a hard time about the reservation system will be more likely to give you a hard time about other things, too.
It’s frustrating when the hygienist’s schedule falls apart. Hygiene patients often break their appointments with the excuse, “I made this appointment so long ago and I didn’t know my work schedule then”. It is also common for hygiene patients to forget about an appointment that was made 6 months ago.
Give plenty of notice to your hygiene patients in a variety of ways. Also, patients who are in the recall system after experiencing the New Patient Reservation System are more likely to remember to return to your office 6 months later as well. They will be ‘trained’ from their initial contact with your office 6 months prior that it is expected that they keep their reserved time with you.
How many times have you had an afternoon booked for a patient to complete a lot of treatment, only to have that patient no show on you? Time and money go right out the window.
Collect payment or a deposit at the time of scheduling. Patients WILL make it in at their scheduled time if they have a financial investment in your office. Suddenly, some time with you will be the MOST important thing on their ‘To Do List’.
The Bottom Line
With these systems in place, your patients will learn to respect your valuable time by not missing visits with your office. If a patient truly cannot make it for their scheduled time, they will go out of the way to let you know. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?
So, let’s analyze where the problem is. How many patients did you have scheduled for the entire month? How many missed appointments did you have? How many were new patients? How many were hygiene patients? How many were current patients who needed treatment? How much more money could you have made if everyone showed up?