One of the most expensive things in a dental office is an empty treatment chair. A missed appointment can cost anywhere between $50 and $1,000, and in the U.S. alone, no-shows cost the healthcare system more than $150 billion annually.
No-shows and other scheduling problems result in lost time, production and money, and are a major source of stress for any dental practice. And they’re not problems your appointment scheduler has to deal with alone. Preventing scheduling problems is every team member’s job.
So while you can’t completely stop no-shows or broken appointments, here is what your staff can do to help reduce scheduling problems and the accompanying stress in your office.
Before a patient leaves, schedule their next appointment and positively help them understand the value of it. The best results come from in-person scheduling and reinforcing the importance of their treatment or check-up.
Discuss any concerns a patient might have, whether financial or clinical, before they schedule their next appointment and walk out your door. But don’t ask them if they have any concerns or questions at the front counter. Do it in a more quiet and private area—somewhere they feel less rushed and have your full attention to address their concerns. Truthfully and tactfully answer their questions so you can relieve their concerns while doing all you can to get them to schedule their next appointment before they leave.
Today’s tech-savvy patients prefer digital appointment reminders. In fact, a recent study showed the top-two preferred communication methods are text message (30 percent) and email (28 percent). If you want patients to show up or give enough cancellation notice, send a text reminder or email two days before their scheduled appointment and request that they confirm, reschedule or decline their appointment. If they decline, ask them to call your office to reschedule.
Your patients are busy so they may not be able to call your office until after your office’s regular business hours. But don’t allow them to call in and cancel their appointment by leaving you a recorded message. Prevent this scheduling conundrum by updating your voicemail greeting to say something like, “If you need to reschedule your appointment, please call us back during business hours so a member of our staff can personally assist you.”
When a patient calls to cancel, reschedule their appointment right then when you have them on the phone. Trying to do it at a later date could become a game of phone tag and result in never getting the appointment rescheduled or not getting the patient back in for several months.
Rather than having production highs and lows, get the right mix of procedures—primary, secondary and tertiary—by reserving certain time slots each day for primary procedures. Pre-block your days for about half of your production goal, and then add in secondary and tertiary procedures around your primary procedures as needed. Doing this instead of trying to get a specific number of patients into your office a day avoids production highs and lows, boosts staff productivity and decreases physical and financial stress.
Check for any glitches in the day’s schedule during your daily morning meetings. Determine how you can fill any schedule voids, and assign team members who have open time to review charts and find patients who could possibly fill open time slots, such as patients with past-due treatments.
Practice management software is equipped with features and tools to make your day-to-day responsibilities easier—so let it fix your scheduling problems. Let it streamline and automate patient communications and use it to create current lists of patients who can fill unforeseen schedule voids.
To learn more about how to eliminate scheduling problems, download our eBook, Scheduling for Higher Efficiency, Production and Profit, available at Dentrix.com/Solved.