I’m at my wits end with patients no-showing or late cancelling their appointments. I don’t know what more we can do. We send confirmation texts and emails and we call patients who don’t respond. Many of the patients call on the day of their appointment to say they aren’t feeling well but we don’t know how true this is. Meanwhile the schedule falls apart by 9:00am. What else can we do?
This problem is driving many dental teams crazy and I have been doing numerous team trainings on how to reduce broken appointments. There are several interlocking reasons why dental offices have this issue. These are:
- Many patients don’t truly value their dental appointments so if something else pops up that could conflict with the appointment time, they will prioritize that.
- Patients perceive that it is easy to reschedule without any consequences to their health or finances. Plus, the front office is so nice and accommodating about late cancellations.
- People are still getting COVID and are legitimately ill the day of the appointment.
Most dental offices make the mistake of focusing on reacting to broken appointments instead of preventing them. Preventing broken appointments means re-training patients so that they perceive that there are significant benefits to keeping the next appointment and that there are consequences to late cancellations such as the unavailability of their favorite clinician, the difficulty in getting their preferred time, the potential impact on their health plan and finally incurring a fine. The best time to retrain patients is while they are in the office while they are scheduling the next appointment. Both the clinical team and the admin team need to use specific language that will build value for the next appointment so that the patient sees it as “un-cancellable.”