Preventing cancellation might be the toughest job of optimizing a dental clinic. There are so many factors that can cause a patient to miss an appointment. From traffic delays to overextended meetings to forgetting, the clinic can’t solve all issues to accommodate the client.
Missed or canceled appointment is an inevitability of running a clinic, that you can factor in. According to the PCC, 10% of your patients might be responsible for about 60% of missed appointments. However, there are some strategies a clinic can employ to reduce the no-show rate in their clinics.
Active Listening is Important
Establishing your clinic’s value is half the battle. The other half is making sure your patients feel heard and understood. Active listening is a big part of a healthcare practice since most patients who don’t feel heard will find another practitioner. According to research by NCBI, clinics that engage in active listening have higher customer satisfaction. The quality of communication between the doctor and patient can affect a patient’s mental state. Open communication between a healthcare provider and a patient fosters trust and increases patient satisfaction. It allows for the elimination of any misunderstanding and misdiagnosis.
Confirmation Process and Reminders
It’s very easy to forget about health appointments between work/school and chores. Confirmation calls/texts are a great way to ensure that the patient does not forget about the appointment. It is also the easiest way to note if there are any changes to be made to the appointment: the time, the date, or the treatment.
Using the patient’s preferred method of communication is best: call, text, or email. It proves that the clinic cares about them and adds a personal touch. Most clinics assign a person to call to make confirmation calls while automating the text/email confirmation. It is an excellent idea to use two methods of communication, in case the patient misses one of them.
Ask for confirmation at least 24 hours in advance. If the patient cancels or if they want to reschedule, you can give the session to another patient. Automating reminders is another way to reduce no-shows. It can save up so much time and effort on the staff’s part.
Scheduling efficiency plays a major factor in how well a clinic runs. A great strategy to implement would be to schedule an appointment for the follow-up as soon as a client is done with the treatment. This way, the patient can book a session as soon as possible for the follow-up.
Having follow-up sessions within the first week would be a good rule of thumb. It might incline the patient to make it to the appointment if it is a short-term goal. The further the appointment date is, chances are that the patient will cancel.
Follow Up After No-Shows
Most patients will miss follow-up appointments since the treatment is done. They might forget to follow up or they might be too lazy to make it. Detail the reason for the follow-up, the patient might be less likely to miss follow-up assignments if they know how important it is.
If a client does not show up for an appointment, call them up 15 minutes after their appointment time. Perhaps they got delayed due to work or traffic, or they forgot to reschedule. You can reschedule the appointment later the same day if an opening is available after a couple of days.
You can start with something like:
Hey, it’s <clinic name>. I see you haven’t come in yet for your appointment scheduled at <time>. I just wanted to check-in, in case you were running late. We can schedule the appointment at a more convenient time if you can’t make it today.
You can also add the reason for the follow up at the end of the call:
Missing your follow-up appointment would set your dental plan back since <the reason the appointment was important>. I can set you up for the next available session.
The clinic should track all cancellations and highlight no-shows. Tracking such metrics will allow you to identify patterns or factors that lead to a no-show. It will also help you single out people who regularly miss sessions and why.
For many people, taking time off from work/school might be a hassle or it might not be workable. They need to factor in the time to travel back and forth from the clinic and the time the treatment would take. This can range anywhere from an hour to three, depending on the distance and treatment.
Setting up a telemedicine practice is a great way to deal with dental issues that don’t need a clinic visit. This is an excellent solution for patients who can’t take time out for a follow-up appointment for simple after-treatment consultations.
This can significantly reduce no-shows since patients do not need to take the day off from work/college. Being able to solve challenges that patients face to provide dental care distinguishes a practice from other practices.
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You can have two types of wait-lists: patients who need a sooner date of appointment and patients that regularly miss their appointments.
For patients who miss appointments repeatedly:
Dental clinics have to deal with and account for patients who miss appointments most of the time. It is inevitable, and a great clinic will have strategies to handle such patients. Instead of removing the appointment from the schedule, you can move it to the wait-list. This wait-list serves as a reminder to follow up with patients and reschedule an appointment so that no patient falls through the cracks. You can add them to the calendar when there are very few appointments on a particular date.
For patients who need a sooner date of appointment:
If a patient cancels the appointment, it leaves a gap in your schedule. This session can be difficult to fill in on such short notice. Having a wait-list prepared allows for you to fill in the session quickly and with ease, allot the appointment to another patient. Wait-lists are an efficient way to fill in the workday without losing hours or pay. Your patients get an earlier date of appointment and you get your schedule filled in. A perfect win-win situation.
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