Even though our hygiene schedule is booked until March, we have a number of openings every day due to late notice cancellations. My front desk team have trouble filling these openings because they either can’t get ahold of patients or patients don’t want to come in. What can we say or do so we can get patients to fill these times?
This is an issue I’m hearing about more and more. We’ll put aside the issue about re-training patients to keep to their appointed times and focus instead on filling the openings. I am going to strongly discourage your team from moving patients who are already scheduled to fill a last-minute opening. Cannibalizing patients from the future week to fill an immediate opening, only moves the problem downhill and worse, shows patients that it’s okay to change appointment times. Instead, run a report on unscheduled patients and call them. When your front desk team calls these patients, the emphasis needs to be on connection versus pushing them to schedule. Here is a suggested script:
- How are you? We’ve missed you. How have you been coping with everything?
- Tell me, have there been any changes in your overall health since we last saw you?
- How about your oral health? How has that been for you over the last 18 months?
- (Option 1: patient has concerns) That sounds like something we should check out as soon as possible. In fact, we could see you tomorrow at …
- (Option 2: If no concerns) I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling well. Let’s make sure that everything checks out so we can keep you feeling healthy. Let’s bring you back as soon as possible. In fact, we could see you…
- If patient refuses to appoint: “Of course we want to make sure you’re comfortable coming back. How about this? Could I get your permission to call you again in 3 weeks just to check in on you? (If patient says yes) What time of day should I call?”
This script enables your team to focus first on re-establishing a relationship with the patient and gently move the patient towards a path of agreement. And if the patient is still hesitant, the last question creates a way forward to making an appointment in the near future.