We’ve all been frustrated when someone cancels last minute or doesn’t show up without any communication. It’s easy to point fingers and say, “I thought you confirmed that patient!”
While it’s impossible to eliminate ALL cancellations and no-shows in the hygiene department, there are a few ways to dramatically decrease them.
To start things off, hygiene really shouldn’t have any “no-shows” where a patient doesn’t show up with no communication, and short-notice cancellations should be rare. If a patient can’t make it to their appointment, most of the time they can contact the office and tell you why they can’t come. They would then be rescheduled during that same phone call. The only time a short-notice cancellation should occur is when the patient has the flu or some other unexpected event occurs.
From my experience, many hygiene cancellations and no-shows are caused internally due to lack of or a poor system. Of course cancellations will happen here and there, but many are avoidable.
So, without further ado, let’s get into how you can reduce hygiene cancellations & no-shows in your office!
(Note: you and your entire team can learn effective systems for scheduling and building a profitable hygiene department on our online training engine at www.ddssuccess.com. Check it out today!)
- The hygienist and doctor must repeatedly convey the importance of recall appointments
Make the patient’s next recall IMPORTANT. The hygienist can do this during the visit and can also explain why it’s important. The hygienist should point out the long-term benefits associated with regular hygiene appointments. You could even mention how coming into the office regularly can save them money in the long-run because you’ll be able to catch any issues early on.
When the doctor comes in, they should hit similar points. This becomes the second time the patient hears the importance of regular recall appointments. The front desk should also verify that they are scheduled before they leave the practice.
It’s just human nature that sometimes we need to hear something multiple times before we really get the message. If it’s just mentioned once casually, then people think it must not be all that important.
- The entire team need to be on the same page as the doctor and hygienist
It’s not just up to the doctor and hygienist to make sure patients are keeping their appointments. It is the responsibility of the entire dental office. The entire team needs to be on the same page with the doctor and hygienist when it comes to stressing the importance of the hygiene appointment.
So, if the patient comes to the front desk and hasn’t pre-booked their appointment, the front desk should see this and get them scheduled. If the patient has already pre-booked their appointment, then the front desk should thank them for doing so.
Of course, this is done in a bright and friendly way – not like a stern scolding.
- Pre-book your appointments
It may seem obvious to get the patient scheduled for their next hygiene visit before they leave. However, there have been many instances where I hear offices NOT doing this. I generally urge the hygienist to pre-book appointments as it creates more of a personal touch and allows the hygienist to schedule them for the correct amount of time needed. Not all patients need to take up an entire hour on the schedule, so you can schedule the easier patients for 30-45 minutes and fit more hygiene production in every day.
- Use a personal touch when confirming patients
In today’s world, there are many ways you can automatically email or text the patient to confirm their appointment. However, I find this to be pretty impersonal. If you have a way to add something personal to your confirmation messages, I suggest you do.
For example, if a patient has confirmed their appointment, someone should call them to say something like, “hey, I noticed you confirmed your appointment. Thank you! I’m looking forward to seeing you in the office tomorrow” or, “Our hygienist, Cindy, is looking forward to seeing you tomorrow! She’s excited to hear about your vacation you talked about the last time you were in.”
Confirming the already confirmed patient goes a long way and gets the patient excited to come in and see you again.
- Have a back-up plan if they don’t respond to your confirmations
So, you’ve texted and emailed the patient a few times to confirm and they haven’t responded, what do you do? You call them!
But, what do you do if you try to get in touch by calling, emailing and texting and still have no response? That’s a red flag and chances are they won’t show up.
It’s up to you to figure out your plan in this type of situation for your office, but in my office, if a patient isn’t responding to confirmations and we’ve tried to communicate with them multiple times, we shorten up the appointment, move it to the side and double book it. I know this is a “no-no” in dentistry, but chances are they won’t show up – and it’s rarely worked against me. If the patient does show up, great! Figure out how to work them in the schedule. However, in my experience, they most likely won’t show up, so instead of waiting for someone who probably won’t arrive, I am able to put another happy patient there that would be more than willing to show up.
I hope these tips help! If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more practice management tips from MGE at www.mgeonline.com and again, you can learn much more on our online training engine at www.ddssuccess.com. DDS Success provides comprehensive training for your entire time for one low monthly fee. It includes training for every position and effective systems for scheduling, hygiene and recall, case acceptance and financial arrangements, reception, marketing and much more! Sign up today!