One frustrating aspect of dentistry is the impact of patients who fail to keep appointments. It wastes time, delays needed treatment, and squanders revenue opportunities. Whether your patient is scheduled for a routine cleaning, cosmetic consultation, or restoration placement, it is vital to reduce the number of no-shows.
By some estimates, one in ten patients skips or cancels scheduled visits to dentists. Even one missed appointment each day can add up to thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year.
As dental consultants, we counsel many practices about how to handle no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Here are seven strategies to consider.
- Think convenience. Offer teledentistry to assess a condition before a patient makes the trip to the office. Use e-forms to simplify appointment-setting and intake. Consider establishing prepaid appointments and implement streamlined payment opportunities.
- Ask your patients to choose how their appointments are confirmed. If possible, offer a variety: text, email, postcard, or phone call. That way, they are more likely to receive a reminder. Consider offering patients the choice of authorizing an alternative contact, such as a spouse, partner, adult child, or parent.
- Cancellations are less frequent when the patient feels they have made a commitment. Follow through with appointment reminders at least 24 to 48 hours before their scheduled window. If you speak to the patient directly, choose words that prompt them to call if they cannot keep an appointment.
- Practice positivity. Make your practice feel like a haven that always offers a pleasant experience. Never fail to show appreciation to your patients at every opportunity.
- During a patient’s visit, clearly communicate the state of their oral health. Explain what treatment they need, why it is important, and when it should be performed. Emphasize the benefits of receiving prompt treatment. Patients who understand the value of their treatment plan are more apt to remember and return as scheduled.
- Set aside time at least once a month to reach out to patients who are not yet scheduled for their next visit. When possible, offer same-day or next-day appointments. This is especially important for consistent no-shows. It also serves to bring back inactive patients and fill cancellation openings.
- Communication is vital in addressing no-shows. Before implementing a new scheduling strategy, arrange a team meeting and discuss your plan in detail. Be sure that each team member is capable of effective follow-up, explaining the value of treatment, and requesting appointment confirmations confidently.