Reduce Missed Appointments
Patients no show for dental appointments for many reasons.
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.
Many Americans do not place value on their dental care.
Many people and will allow other expenses (vacations, big screen TVs, and even the vet bill) 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.
In fact, when a patient “no shows” on a practice, that practices loses in THREE ways.
The practice has lost the immediate production for the patient who no showed to his/her appointment.
Most likely there was no warning about the patient not coming in and then there isn’t enough time for the practice to call another patient to fill that spot.
The of ce has lost the ability to market the practice to a patient during that appointment time. Ideally, that patient would leave happy and then become an advocate/marketer for the practice. That patient could go out into the world and tell people how great you are, but if no one is in the chair, that opportunity is lost, too.
It is a VERY big deal when patients no show. It costs the office A TON of money. Do you know how much your practice costs to run per hour? Per day? It is WAY more costly than people realize. Dentistry has one of the highest overheads in all of medicine. It can be very stressful to make business ends meet when patients do not show. Sometimes offices think that there is nothing that can be done to prevent “no shows.” We know that isn’t true. We know that patients respond to the culture of the practice. For example, if the office expresses value and does things to raise its value, it will have patients who respond accordingly. We also know that offices that do NOT raise the bar and who allow poor patient behaviors to take place will continue to be plagued by “no shows.”
Here's the recap
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. Patients 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.
It’s pretty devastating when a new patient doesn’t show because marketing dollars have been invested in attracting that patient to the practice.
So, if the office has spent money marketing to new patients, and a new patient scheduled an appointment, but then didn’t show, then that practice is financially in the hole. Make sense?
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.
Many offices now require a credit card at the time of scheduling. Do you know why? By obtaining credit card info, the patient is now forced to place a value on the appointment. Remember when we said that most Americans do not value dentistry the way we do? We have to DO something to create that value–obtaining that credit card to hold their dental reservation is the way a practice can create value. Patients will also bend over backwards to let you know when they need to reschedule a time with your office because they know that the practice is SERIOUS about seeing its patents. Patients will not only show up for their first visit, they will be more likely to accept treatment and return for subsequent visits.
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 six months ago.
Pre-appoint patients at each hygiene visit. Have the hygienist be the one to schedule the patient for his/her next appointment. Give plenty of advance notice to those hygiene patients in a variety of ways. Systematically send post cards, emails, text messages, and make phone calls.
Do not be satis ed with just leaving a message for a patient. Speak to the patient. Remind him/her that the appointment time is “Reserved.” Use that word a lot! Start using the word, “reservation” instead of “appointment.” Elevate the practice! Also, patients who are in the recall system after experiencing the New Patient Reservation System are more likely to remember to return to your of ce six months later as well. They will be ‘trained’ from their initial contact with your of ce six months prior that it is expected that they keep their reserved time with you.
Current Patients in Treatment
How many times have you had an afternoon booked for a patient to complete extensive treatment, only to have that patient not show up? 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
The ENTIRE office can contribute to increasing patient attendance rates and decreasing no shows. 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, he/she will go out of the way to let you know.
Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?