Broken appointments and no shows are inevitable in a dental practice. However, a healthy percentage must be monitored and action taken if it falls in the unhealthy range. We identify health as less than 5% for the doctor and less that 12% for hygiene. If you are over these healthy markers you will need to take action. Not only are broken appointments stressful, frustrating and costly they typically occur as a result of a broken communication cycle that started prior to the appointment. In some cases, patients should never have been put on the schedule in the first place. In this blog series, we will cover 6 communication and helpful tips!
Tips for Minimizing Broken Appointments: 3 Cycles of Communication
- At the time of diagnosis the patient has to see and understand every problem that you point out. If the patient does not know they have a problem there is no basis for a sale. The patient also has to understand the implication of leaving it that way, which is what causes the patient to act. The value to the patient for acting on the problem must be uncovered and used to help guide the patient to an appointment.
- Listen to the patient’s concerns: current life events, finances, time, commitment and so on. Help guide the patient to the best choice for them, which could be to not schedule the appointment at this time. It is important they feel understood and heard which develops a stronger relationship and builds trust. Document the discussion and refer to it during the next contact.
- Financial discussion is important at the time of scheduling, For the patients who are ready to schedule, you must be very clear about the fee and payment arrangements. The patient is the best judge of what they can afford and how they can pay it. Make sure your financial guidelines are adhered to. If it is not possible for the patient to fall within these guidelines, it is not a good idea to reserve precious time on the schedule for them and not get paid for it. Financial arrangements should be documented and a copy given to the patient.
Tips for Minimizing Broken Appointments: 3 Important Rules
In previous posts we have discussed tips for minimizing broken appointments. The following are three more important tips for minimizing broken appointments.
- Give patients options when scheduling the appointment. Give them 2 choices in your appropriate block and if your blocks allow, give them a choice of afternoon or morning. The kiss of death is to ask a patient when they would like to come in. It can immediately set you up to have to say no to the patient or upset the clinical team. Also, let the patient know the length of their appointment. If you sense any hesitation from the patient make sure to stop and address the issue. It is much better to have a patient leave and not schedule than to reserve an appointment that they are more than likely going to cancel.
- Be clear in your language when scheduling the appointment. The language used can easily communicate one of 2 things. Depending on your language, it can either seem to be a tentative arrangement or a confirmed appointment. The following are examples of tentative and confirmed appointments.
Tentative Appointment: Thank you Mrs. Bragg, we will see you Tuesday, January 6 at 9:00am. We will call to remind you a couple of days before. Have a great day.
Confirmed Appointment : Thank you Mrs. Bragg, so we have reserved January 6 at 9:00 for yours and Dr Briggs appointment. I will let Dr Briggs know and we will go ahead and order all the material for your appointment. At this point, Mrs. Bragg, we consider this appointment confirmed and we will not give this time to any other patients. Will you still need a phone call before the appointment? (Document) We look forward to seeing you.
- The Confirmation Call is also important.
Here is an example of a good confirmation call: “Hi Mrs. Bragg, This is Kathy from Dr Briggs office, we are all prepared for the time you reserved with Dr. Briggs, Tuesday, January 6, all of the materials have arrived for your appointment and we look forward to seeing you”
These are examples of tentative confirmation calls: “We are calling to remind you of your appointment” “Please call us back to confirm this appointment” “Please call us if you have questions or problems with this appointment”
Broken appointments and no shows are manageable if your communication includes these six elements of the communication cycle. You should be able to stay in the healthy range and enjoy hearing the phone ring.