One of the most frustrating aspects of managing a dental practice can be dealing with patient cancellations, which cause irritating holes in your schedule and impact your daily sales goals.
While some circumstances are unavoidable, like work, emergencies, or bad traffic, there are some measures you can take to help your patients keep their appointments and even arrive on time.
Being proactive about calling or sending reminders to your patients about their appointments ahead of time gives them enough time to evaluate their schedules and foresee potential conflicts.
With today’s technology, you can easily communicate with your patients through phone calls, emails, or text messages.
Pro Tip: Make sure that the contact information preferred form of contact you have for your patients is up-to-date to ensure they’re not missing your messages.
Make it a goal to complete procedures on time. When you consistently run your clinic on time, then it’s not unreasonable to ask that your patients also be on time. Respect for the schedule runs both ways.
Building good relationships and rapport with your patients also helps create mutual respect.
Make it a goal for your staff members to book the next patient appointment before they walk out the door. Even if they don’t know their schedule six months from now, it’s easier to have something on the books they can change ahead of time than to try to reach them in the future.
Some dental practices enforce a cancellation fee. You can charge this on the first offence or give patients a few times before applying a late or cancellation fee to their account.
If charging a fee seems too extreme, you may just consider posting your cancellation policy for patients to see and reviewing it with new patients. Sometimes, just knowing and understanding the policy promotes patient compliance.
With the proper training and verbiage, your staff may be able to prevent some patient cancellations.
For example, if a patient calls to cancel their appointment the day of, your receptionist can offer them an appointment three to four weeks out. This signals to them that your time is limited and there is a high demand for it. Even if they still cancel their appointment, this strategy may deter them in the future.
If you have a patient who consistently cancels or disrupts your schedule by arriving late with no effort to improve their behaviour, you might have to consider letting them go.
Many dentists want to avoid this, but a patient who doesn’t respect the schedule impacts other patients who couldn’t use that same time to get their own treatment. It also affects your staff, who have to constantly monitor the patient, deal with rebooking, and scramble to fill an empty appointment due to the cancellation.