Everyone who works in a dental office is well aware that problems and problems can arise at any time. People miss their appointments, and those can wreak havoc on an otherwise productive day.
The reasons for this are varied, but certain everyday events can and will happen to everyone. Some reasons people miss their dentist appointments include: the car broke down, the babysitter canceled, the boss won’t let them off work, and the list goes on and on.
In any case, things happen and everyone in the practice understands how annoying it is to have appointments canceled. Being in a dental office and knowing what happens when someone doesn’t show up makes it easy for me to discuss how to handle it. But not everyone is a no-show.
I believe there are four types of patients:
• No-shows, who always set an appointment and almost always miss their appointment without warning.
• Perfect patients, who never miss an appointment but call ahead if they need another appointment.
• Respectful patients, who make the most of their appointments and call if they can’t make it or will be late.
• Latecomers, who can never meet the scheduled appointment time and always arrive late.
No-shows in particular can cause planning challenges for the day, especially if a productive treatment is scheduled. This affects both the patients and the doctor. The patient does not receive the treatment he needs in a timely manner, which risks further damage. The doctor loses time, money and equipment because of the patient who does not show up.
I tried different tactics to solve the scheduling problem, including talking with patients about not calling to let us know they weren’t coming. We have a three knock rule in our office, and after the third missed appointment, I warn patients that the next time they don’t show up, they will be charged a fee for missing their appointment. They usually understand and apologize. One way to fill the gap left in the schedule by their cancellation is to “book” the patient. In case someone doesn’t show up, the doctor has other patients to see and no one is wasting their time.
Perfect patients are the backbone of the practice. They helped grow the practice and are loyal customers. These patients care about their treatment and make the effort to show up for their appointments. If something happens that they can’t make it to their appointment, they notify the office. Staff members should commend these patients, as they are the ones who usually refer their friends and family and who are essential to the growth of your practice.
Respectful patients are those who care about their treatment, but when they are late or have to cancel, they call the office and figure out what to do, whether it’s to arrive late or reschedule their appointment. These patients also refer friends and family. Until canceled appointments or lateness become a trend, I give these patients a break and give them a chance to make up for lost time.
Latecomers are more difficult to manage because they disrupt the flow of the schedule and can lead to delays by the doctor. If these patients are often late, we warn them that if they are late, they will have to wait until the doctor is finished with their current patient, or they may choose to reschedule their appointment. This lets patients know that the doctor’s time is valuable, but they need to realize that their own time is valuable too! We often give patients who have trouble showing up on time an appointment half an hour earlier than scheduled, and so the doctor can keep running on time undisturbed.
ALSO BY LAUREN ZAGARDO:Dealing with Angry Patients in the Dental Office
Having patients in the office who respect the doctor, the staff, and the doctor’s time is a sweet relief for everyone on the patient’s treatment team. Problems can arise at any time, and a simple phone call can make all the difference in planning. This polite warning can give the doctor and staff time to work out the schedule so that each patient has their allotted time with the doctor. Staff, physician and patient time are always valuable and should never be wasted.