It’s 3:05 p.m. and the 3 o’clock patient has yet to arrived, and calls to their cell phone go unanswered. If your office is like mine, this leaves you scrambling to rearrange your schedule to avoid losing valuable production time. After providing family dental care in Portland as a private practice owner for 5 years now, nothing makes me more frustrated than no-shows or last minute cancellations.
Even though I understand that life happens, making these type of scheduling hiccups inevitable, providing family dental care in Portland depends on scheduling as many patients possible per day. Emergencies happen, and we can’t avoid the unavoidable. But do broken dental appointments signal a much larger problem?
Why Patients Miss Their Appointments to Receive Family Dental Care in Portland
Ultimately, I believe patients no-show for a variety of reasons, but ultimately it can come down to a patient VALUE problem. If patients most commonly cancel “just a cleaning,” they don’t value or understand the importance of their clinical hygiene care. It’s my team’s job to instill VALUE in the services we are providing our patients. This leads us to the idea of Patient Value and Accountability.
To understand how we achieve this ideal, let’s first ask a few important questions…
- How often do broken appointments occur?
- When they do occur, are we properly tracking them?
- Does tracking this problem indicate an increase of no-shows?
- What reasons are patients giving for cancelling?
- Is their reason legitimate or a matter of convenience?
- What effect does are these cancelled appointment having on your hygiene production?
In my opinion, the most important step to increasing patient value is for us to do a better job of educating patients on the value of the services we provide. This can be accomplished by changing the way we talk to patients. For example:
“We have reserved this time just for you and our team will prepare for your visit.”
“Based on the condition of your mouth today, we recommend you come in every __ months.”
“Today we will be providing your dental prophylaxis, dental exam, and oral cancer screening.”
“We confirm appointments 2-3 weeks ahead of your reserved time. Appointments are confirmed when they are made. As a courtesy, we can text/email/call you as a reminder of your appointment.”
And for those repeat offenders…
“How can we help you better keep your appointments to avoid any more failed appointments?”
I know there will always be a subset of our patients that will continue to cause scheduling problems no matter how much value we instill in them. That’s why three years ago, I changed my office policies to read that any appointment cancelled within 48 hours notice would be subject to a $50/half-hour fee. This was an attempt to change patient behavior by hitting them where it hurts – their pocketbook! Of course this has been met with some hostility over the years and has caused me to lose a few patients. But for most part, it has greatly changed patient accountability, and has let them know that we value there time so they should value ours.
Best Wishes. Melissa Beadnell