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How to Prevent Patient Cancellations and Handle “No Call, No Shows”

One of the most challenging parts of dental office management is discouraging patients from canceling their appointments. It’s no secret. Last-minute patient cancellations and chronic “no call, no show” patients add unnecessary stress to patient scheduling.

As dental office managers, it’s wise to implement scheduling procedures that keep the practice healthy. Among the laundry list of responsibilities, managing patients who have a reputation for canceling at a moment’s notice or not showing up is one of the most essential yet complex duties. Thus, we’ve compiled this guide to explain how to imbed dental office management strategies that help prevent patient cancellation.

Consistently Remind All Patients About Your Cancellation Policy

When it comes to knowing cancellation policies, ignorance is not bliss. Consistently explaining your specific cancellation policy is vital for keeping you and your patients sane. Establish healthy boundaries for your practice by:

  •       Incorporating a pre-written script in verbal in-person and over-the-phone conversations
  •       Posting the cancellation policy on your website and office
  •       Gently reminding patients of the cancelation policy during scheduling conversations

This way, patients can’t make the awkward excuse of “not knowing about the cancellation policy.” Also, having clear cancellation guidelines might decrease total cancellations.

Ask Patients to Actively Confirm Appointments

Thanks to advances in technology, it’s easier for people to manage their time and appointments now more than ever. With a click of a button, dental practices have the power to send out individual reminders and alerts via e-mail or text to just about any electronic device.  

The vast majority of Americans own a cellphone of some kind. So, it’s safe to say that most of your patients should be able to communicate via texting. If your practice has not invested in an SMS/text system, do it. It’s a smart way to save hours of manpower. These days, many practice management and appointment systems allow practices to send:

  •       “Save-the-date” scheduling alerts
  •       Confirm appointments days prior
  •       Last-minute appointment reminders

SMS/text systems empower patients too. Patients can confirm their appointment via text outside of business hours. Additionally, they can promptly cancel a day or two in advance (if needed).

If Necessary, Compile a “Short Notice and First Available” Patient List

While it’s impossible to predict who will be a consistently late or no-show patient, it’s essential to set a firm boundary if you’ve noticed a patient has established this habit. Generally, a shrewd move is to compile a “short notice and first available list” for patients with two or more recent no-shows on their file—and don’t allow them to reschedule whenever they want to again. Although this may seem stern, this rule can keep your team level-headed.

Instead of rescheduling at free will, patients on the “short notice and first available” list may come in for pop-up appointments due to time slots that are difficult to fill or last-minute cancelations. Furthermore, save those prime time slots for patients who have proven reliable.

Don’t Forget to Show Empathy

Life is unpredictable, and full of unexpected illness, emergencies, and accidents. Even though firm boundaries are crucial, trusting that your patients are trustworthy, reliable, and respectable is equally important. Dentists are healthcare providers. It’s negligent for dentists, hygienists, and other dental team members to allow actively sick patients to spread their germs in a tight office space. Alternatively, write it in their file and reschedule the appointment.

Dental Practice Enhancement Can Help with Your Dental Office Management

Whether you’re interested in hiring a highly trained and experienced virtual administrator to handle tedious administrative tasks or want to retain your existing team on how to prevent patient cancellations better, Dental Practice Enhancement can help you find a solution for what you need. Give us a call at 833- DPE-FOR-U or fill out our online form. We look forward to helping you streamline and improve your dental office management.


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