5 Ways to Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows at Your Dental Practice

Let’s face it, every dental practice will have appointment cancellations and no-shows. But how you and your staff plan to reduce cancellations and no-shows can be the difference between a good profit year and a GREAT profit year. Even in strong economic times, appointment cancellations and no-shows will happen.

If not addressed properly, cancellations and no-shows can add up to big revenue losses, estimates pointing to an average of $40,000 to $60,000 per year. And that doesn’t reflect the dollars lost in production when the dentist never has the opportunity to diagnose and perform. Here are 5 ways to help reduce cancellations and no-shows at your dental practice.

  1. Educate your Patients: Often patients have no idea the havoc their cancellations or no-shows cause on the entire dental office. In fact, it has been estimated that a little more than 25% of patients routinely cancel appointments. This is a result of dental practices not educating them on what their cancellations or no-shows do to the overall dental practice flow. But be patient with your patients, because they do not intentionally what to disrupt your day. They have very busy lives and when something needs to give, the dental appointment is usually first thing to cancel. However, take control by educating them on the impact their cancellation or no show has on the schedule, and pointing out the office cancellation policy to help reduce cancellations.
  2. Make It Personal: Confirmation calls are a must for every scheduled appointment. But don’t rely solely on the phone, as times are changing and today we have more than one way to communicate with patients. Ask your patient how they would like to be reminded of their next appointment, by phone, email, or text. In fact, studies show most people like to be reminded of upcoming appointments by text or e-mail. Additionally, your office is more likely to get a prompt response from patients if you communicate via text or e-mail. Patients should be notified 48 hours in advance of their appointments. If your patients prefer to be contacted via phone, adjust the schedule of the employee assigned to making phone calls to help accommodate when your patients want to be called. If you are going to make the effort to make the call, make it as effective as possible. Try to speak directly with the patient, don’t just leave a message, because this is not effective and will increase your cancellation or no-show rate.
  3. Fill No-Shows Fast: A computerized scheduling software system is essential if a practice wants to fill cancellations quickly and efficiently, as well as completely manage the entire office scheduling. These software packages offer practices the ability to maintain lists of patients interested in coming in sooner for their appointments. When a cancellation occurs, the software package retains the appointment information. It then scans for available patient information to try and fill the open appointment.
  4. Follow-Up with No-Shows: No-shows are the worst. Make it a standard operating procedure to follow-up with no-shows by calling every patient who cancels, doesn’t show up or doesn’t reschedule. Contact no-shows within 10 minutes of their missed appointment and express genuine concern for their missed appointment.
  5. Don’t Point Fingers: When a cancellation or no-show occurs, dental offices typically point the finger at the front desk employee for not maintaining a full working schedule. But in order to minimize cancellations and no-shows, every employee needs to be urging patients to keep their appointments. Actually, curbing cancellations and no-shows begins at chairside. Once the dental appointment is completed, it’s the clinician’s responsibility to schedule the follow-up appointment. It is essential that the clinician emphasize the value of regular dental visit. Explain to your patients the importance of keeping their appointments.

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