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The True Cost of Dental No-Shows, and How to Prevent Them

losing moneyWe’ve all experienced the frustration of patient no-shows. Sometimes a last-minute phone call comes in, with an apologetic tone and a legitimate excuse. However, a kind gesture doesn’t change the fact that that you won’t fill that spot on your schedule. If you have a waiting list available to turn to, or emergency patients to see, then that’s your luck. But that space is usually going to stay vacant. You’ll never make up that lost revenue.

All that lost revenue can certainly add up. If you experience just one no-show per week, think of what that means for a full year. If your hygiene appointments bring in, for example, $100 in revenue, and a doctor appointment brings in $500—you are facing a $30,000 loss over the course of the year. Calculate your own losses, and you’ll be surprised by the result.

For revenue loss prevention tips, please call us at 877-925-8007 or contact us online to learn what Patient Prospectors can provide for you.

Prevent No-Shows with Cancellation Policies

The first step is understanding why no-shows happen in the first place. Life throws everyone curve balls from time-to-time, and that can’t be avoided. However, if patients gave us 24 hours’ notice to cancel or reschedule an appointment, we’d be in much better shape. This is why many offices charge a fee for last-minute cancellations and no-shows. With a cancellation fee, you get some of that money back.

Even just an extra day’s notice from a patient will give your staff the opportunity to attempt filling that empty time slot. If your staff are familiar enough with your patients, they may even know exactly which patients might not mind shifting their appointments, which would allow you to retool the schedule and fill that space. The truth is that many no-show excuses (reasons) would be communicated within 24 hours if the patient was made aware of a cancellation fee.

Formalize Your Patient Reminders

In many cases, patients simply forget their appointments. Sometimes they forget on purpose. Sometimes the appointment was made so long ago that they find themselves on a business trip, two states away. The key to preventing these situations is communicating expectations and taking a multi-layered approach to patient reminders.

If you want to prevent no-shows, your patient reminder protocol needs to be explicit and systematically executed. Don’t leave it in the hands of one individual to use her best judgment. Design policies and put them in writing, so no patient ever forgets his or her appointment again.

A multi-layered approach works best to ensure each patient has been reminded of an upcoming appointment: If a phone call doesn’t get answered, leave a message AND send a text AND send an email.

Understanding the psychology behind no-shows can inform how you solicit patient confirmations. Even if a patient tells you he’s “definitely coming next week” that’s no guarantee he will show. When possible, use communication avenues that solicit feedback in innocuous, impersonal text formats. If a patient would rather not explain why he isn’t keeping his appointment, let him text a “yes” or “no” 48 hours before, to indicate whether he’ll be there.

A multi-layered approach also applies to the timeline for patient reminders. Send your reminders by text, email, and/or phone call (a) when the appointment is made, (b) two weeks in advance, (c) one week in advance, and then again, (d) 3 days in advance. (Or however, you design your policy.) Multiple channels of communication, at various times, can fill the gaps and make sure every reason behind a no-show is prevented.

A Welcome Change

If you are not used to multi-channel patient reminders, it may feel like nagging. The truth, however, is that most patients do not mind. Most patients are grateful for ample reminders in multiple communication channels, as they understand why they are necessary. Patients are also business owners and service providers. They value their time on the clock, just like you do.

For more revenue loss prevention tips, please call us at 877-925-8007 or contact us online to learn what Patient Prospectors can provide for you.

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