Many dental clinics are looking for ways to reduce no-show appointments and short-notice cancellations. Both are points of great concern for clinics as they leave gaps in a perfectly laid out dental schedule
There are many ways that no-shows and late cancellations can hurt your clinic:
- Wasted preparation time
- Lost revenue
- Lower productivity
- Reduced morale
While it’s sometimes an inevitable part of running a dental clinic, there are ways to reduce these disruptions to your dental schedule, financial stability, and clinic flow.
MAKE IT EASY
Make it extremely easy for patients to visit you. These days, with all the technological advancements and our fast-paced culture, patients are looking for experiences that provide the most convenience and take the least amount of time and effort.
One reason that patients may cancel with short notice or not show up at all is that they struggle to fit a dental appointment in their busy day.
To combat this and cater to your patients, consider staying open later or on weekends, or even opening earlier. This flexibility makes it easier for patients to find a time that fits their schedule, meaning they’re more likely to show up.
HAVE A CANCELLATION AND NO-SHOW POLICY
A cancellation and no-show appointment policy outlines how much notice the patient needs to give in order to cancel (common notice period is 24-48 hours), and any ramifications that they may incur if they cancel after that time frame or simply don’t show up.
A dentist’s cancellation policy is crucial in helping customers understand the impact no-shows and last-minute cancellations have on your clinic.
It’s up to your team to decide whether there will be financial penalties. Some clinics don’t like to charge missed dentist appointment fees as they feel it’s not a good customer experience, and the fee doesn’t offset the lost cost – that’s why it’s so crucial to direct efforts into reducing no-show appointments and late cancellations.
This is a common tactic to reduce no-shows and cancellations. In fact, many patients have come to expect and rely on these appointment reminders. At the very least, your efforts to reduce no-show appointments and late cancellations should include sending reminders to patients.
Best practices for sending reminders:
- Remind patients through their preferred method of communication: text, email, or phone
- Send a reminder the week before and then another one the day before
- Use an automated system to streamline the process
- Have patients confirm the appointment or reschedule if need be
In addition to reminders, immediately call a patient who hasn’t shown up and reiterate your cancellation policy. If feasible, ask them if they can come for a shortened appointment, such as an exam without cleaning, and if not, reschedule the appointment.
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It’s important to always convey the value of dental service at every opportunity. For example, remind patients that regular cleanings improve overall oral health and prevent gum and heart disease. If they understand that their treatment is pertinent, they’ll be less likely to show up late or not at all.
Additionally, aim to ensure patients understand that when they make an appointment, that time has been specially reserved for them. When they understand that the clinic has set aside time, resources, and people to dedicate to them, they’ll make more of an effort to show up on time – this is especially important when it comes to larger treatments.
A good tactic is to get patients to confirm out loud when you’re scheduling the appointment. A verbal confirmation can significantly increase a patient’s likelihood of keeping their promise.
Words also have a big impact on changing mindsets too. When reminding patients of an upcoming appointment, make sure to include all the details while reminding them of the commitment they have made and are expected to uphold: “This is a reminder that your 1-hour appointment is scheduled for 2 pm this coming Friday. If you’re unable to make the appointment, please let us know at least 24 hours in advance.”
While technology has made things more convenient, patients still crave that personal touch. When they feel connected to a business, they’re more likely to stay loyal. Here are some ways to show patients they’re appreciated and build patient loyalty:
- Use their names and give them your full attention
- Listen to their concerns and ask follow-up questions
- Thank patients for showing up on time
- Send birthday and holiday cards
- Update patients on events, tips, or promotions
- Relate to your patients and exercise sympathy – sometimes situations beyond their control come up. In that case, work with them to find the best alternative solution
When you make happy patients feel valued, you help reduce no-show appointments and late cancellations.
KEEP A WAITING LIST
In the event that a cancellation is unavoidable, keep a waiting list to help fill gaps in the schedule. This is a list of patients who have flexible schedules or are available last minute. Make sure to check frequently that this list is up-to-date.
HOW TO DEAL WITH DIFFICULT PATIENTS
Despite your best efforts, there may still be patients who continuously fail to show up or are consistently late. In these cases, try the below tactics:
- Request a deposit so they have a financial incentive to show up
- Warn repeat offenders that if they miss another appointment, you will no longer be able to accommodate them as a patient
- Consider cutting ties if they’ve accumulated a set number of no-shows in a year
Ready to reduce no-shows? ClearDent can help!
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