“You train people how to treat you.”-Dr. Phil
Dr. Phil is right on! Let’s face it, hygiene cancellations & no-shows are an epidemic in dental practices everywhere. I wish I had the magic pixie dust I could sprinkle on your practice and eliminate this problem once and for all, but I don’t. However I can share some techniques that have worked for my dental office and client practices alike. Perhaps the best place to begin it to understand that at least part of the problem lies with us. Let me explain.
When I am visiting dental practices and we debrief the day’s activities I have often heard the scheduling coordinator say, “I just knew so and so wasn’t coming”. Hmmmm……I have heard this statement so many times that I started thinking. If you know someone isn’t coming, then why reserve precious time on your schedule for them? Usually when the scheduling coordinator has this feeling, she is absolutely right because it is based on the past behavior of the patient. While past behavior does not guarantee future behavior, it is a very good predictor.
Here is what we did to help resolve this problem……
Every Monday morning print a copy of the next week’s hygiene schedule (7-10 days out). Now identify all patients on next week’s hygiene schedule who you would consider an ‘at-risk’ patient. By at risk, I mean at risk of not showing up. Once you have identified these at risk patients, contact them 7-10 days in advance of their appointment for a preliminary confirmation. The contact might sound like this:
Team Member: “Bob, we have you scheduled for an appointment with Kelli next Tuesday at 10am. I am contacting you to confirm that appointment.”
Use every confirmation tool in your arsenal including email, text messaging and telephone calls. I highly recommend using a patient contact service for email and texts. We use Patient Activator by 1-800-DENTIST and really appreciate its features!
If the patient confirms, you will still need to confirm them again 1-2 days prior to their appointment. If they cancel, you now have enough time to fill that appointment because you found out well in advance. A very important question is what to do if you are unable to reach the patient? Here is where you will need an open mind. Think about the words of wisdom by Dr. Phil. If you are unable to reach the patient, I suggest leaving one more message via email, text & voice mail as follows:
Team Member: “ Bob, this is Laurie calling from LifeSmiles Dental Care. I am contacting you to confirm your appointment with Kelli for Tuesday at 10am. I have left some messages but have not heard back from you. If I do not hear from you by this afternoon I will need to reschedule your appointment. Please contact me by this afternoon to confirm.”
If you do not hear from them, take away the appointment and schedule someone else!! This may sound harsh, but remember this patient is an ‘at-risk’ patient for a reason. They have demonstrated by past behavior that they are not reliable. You will need to be strategic with this approach and not be cavalier, but don’t be shy about applying it when indicated. Remember, you train people how to treat you!
Consider the tips in this blog post to reduce your hygiene cancellations and no-shows. By doing so you will be training your patients to value their hygiene appointments and your schedule will have fewer broken appointments. Keep Smiling!