7 Tips to Eliminating Hygiene No-Shows
Nothing destroys practice productivity like appointment no-shows. Here are 7 steps to eliminating appointment breakage.
Have a goal
You know what would be really boring? Watching a football game that had no end zones and no scoreboard. Make a simple goal to reduce cancellations and no-shows to “X” per month, then put it on a whiteboard in the break area. What gets measured is what gets done.
Test different reminder methods. If you are simply sending an appointment reminder card in the mail a month in advance and not following up, you are likely to have a lot of broken appointments. Test different methods such as mail, email, text, or phone calls on different schedules to find one that eliminates the most no-shows. If your clientele is primarily in their golden years, mail and phone calls may be the ticket. If you have a more tech savvy patient base, emails and text messages will likely prove better results. No matter what you are doing, GET CONFIRMATION from the patient that they will be at their appointment!
Make rescheduling a challenge
If you are excessively accommodating to patients that regularly cancel with late notice or no-show, you are communicating that you hold little value in those appointment blocks so why should they? Don’t let patients schedule your time without understanding the value. If they no-show or call to cancel with a lame excuse, don’t offer them a chance to tell you what they want (next Thursday at 10:00), tell them what you have open (Monday at 9:00). Then follow up with the question “are you sure there is no way you can make today’s appointment? We are simply booked out.” When rescheduling is a challenge and the patient understands the value of their appointment, they are less likely to break it.
Eliminate the bottom 20%
There is an old Russian proverb that states “If you chase two rabbits… you will not catch either one.” This is exactly what your team is doing when you waste time on the bottom 20% rather than focusing on your quality patients. The bottom 20% are people who simply don’t value your services. They may see dentistry as merely a commodity. They are your complainers, they are always late, they routinely break appointments, are slow to pay, or simply don’t have the life skills to manage their responsibilities. If you groan with frustration every time you see them on the schedule, that is a sign! Have your front office make a list of patients with this type of history and keep it front and center. Know who these people are before you book an appointment and maybe employ suggestion #4 if they call. Keep in mind this assessment isn’t about the bottom 20% of patients from a revenue perspective, but from a behavior perspective. Don’t think eliminating the bottom 20% is a good financial move? Read Gary Keller’s book “The One Thing, The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” and it just may open your eyes to some new possibilities, and make your life a whole lot easier.
Don’t be afraid to dismiss low quality patients
Dentists are highly skilled surgical craftsmen, but sometimes they fall victim to irrational fears of the demise of their practice over necessary changes that need to be made for practice success. Practices that have enacted and carried out appointment cancellation policies that eventually result in the dismissal of poor patients are often surprised at how such a simple thing can really boost the morale, and profitability of the practice when they stop wasting time on no-show patients. If you don’t have a prewritten dismissal letter you can download a sample here.
Have a policy and/or prepayment requirement
Everyone loves Janie at the front desk; she treats patients like family and the rest of your staff love working with her. But the reality is, it is much easier for Janie to give a patient a pass than hold them accountable. Have a patient cancellation policy that may or may not include a prepayment for scheduling a new appointment after a cancellation. You can download a sample cancellation policy here.
Be honest and reciprocate
There is nothing wrong with talking honestly with your patients about the value of your time. Simple scripts for communication with patients can work wonders when the issue arises. “Jim (patient), we believe in treating our patients the way we would want to be treated. Therefore, we make a concerted effort to value your time and stay on schedule each and every day. In return, we simply ask that patients equally value our time and maintain their appointments unless there is a real emergency.” Quality patients respond well to honesty and authenticity, develop a simple script for your practice and get the team on board.