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4 Ways to Reduce Dental Patient No-Shows and Cancellations

If you are a professional dentist, you might have encountered several situations where your patients don’t show up or cancel at the last moment due to an emergency. It is sad but true that people tend to prioritise other aspects of their life greater than their health. And when it comes to oral health, negligence increases.

According to research, 23% of people cancel their appointments. Being held up is not a pleasant feeling and when it is related to your profession, it not only hampers your practice but also is disrespectful and a waste of your time and moreover money. As a professional, you could’ve allotted your precious time to another potential patient and adhered to their needs.

Last moment cancellations or no-shows can be frustrating and you cannot even hold the patient responsible for it. Additionally, the loss of income cannot be compensated for.

Can you as an oral health provider ensure patients remember their appointments, take them seriously, and minimise their cancellations? You most certainly can! 

Here are 4 prominent ways to reduce situations of Dental Patient No-Shows and Cancellations:

1] Communicate appointment benefits and urgency

It is a human tendency to disregard issues until they become a major hurdle in everyday life. You as a professional need to emphasise why exactly the treatment is of utter importance to the patient. When a sense of urgency is created; patients are more likely to visit because they recognize the severity of the situation and understand that the issue needs to be addressed immediately. 

Communication with your patients is a crucial aspect. When your patient feels that you are well acquainted with their personal health care and have a genuine intention of helping them get better; there is a greater probability of them visiting you. You can make them understand the benefits through several methods. For instance, you can review each patient’s notes prior to their appointment, log patient notes regarding their personal health goals, upcoming events, and other relevant personal info, personalise your verbiage around relevant information, follow up immediately after cancellation and so on. 

2] Train and support your team

Your team is your strongest support. Without an efficient team, you cannot expect to run smoothly. Your team interacts with a plethora of patients each day. The interaction, therefore, will not be constant throughout. Due to the busy and hectic environment, there are high chances they miss out on reminders. To ensure they don’t inadvertently forget to remind the patients of their appointments, you can connect with the team and review your appointment protocols with your team regularly, inquire about the reasons for frequent cancellation, evaluate the factors that could be causing patient apathy about dentistry, brainstorm ideas to counter and improve upon the factors contributing to patient behaviours around their appointments etc. 

When you and your team are on board and work collectively, you can ensure better productivity. 

3] Automate patient appointment confirmations

Traditionally, appointments were limited to phone calls, visits or a postcard. Today, however, you need to be aware of the communication mode that your patient prefers and is comfortable with.  Advancing yourself with recent technology is a prerequisite for any task you undertake today. Communicating and reminding the patients of their appointments might slip through the minds of your team, but an automated reminder will never disappoint you. You can maximise your dental practice management platform to automate reminder and follow-up workflows.

Crafting your appointment confirmations with a conversational tone to increase readability and compel a response is also necessary. Additionally, scheduling reminders early and steadily in the weeks leading up to the appointment like two-week, two-day, and day-of reminders are a common practice to keep your patient notified. When presented with the same piece of information repeatedly, your patient will be compelled to visit. This strategy follows from the repeated exposure effect wherein the repeated engagement with a certain thing creates greater affiliation and develops an overall positive attitude towards it. 

4] Acknowledge patients for keeping appointments and being punctual

Everyone likes being acknowledged for what they do. Acknowledging your patients for their punctuality and never missing an appointment can serve as a motivator and positive reinforcer which will get them to repeat their behaviour. They will know that their time and presence are valued. You can compliment them for prioritising their oral health. When a patient keeps their word and honours your time and efforts, you can offer them superior opportunities and benefits. Provide convenient, time-saving options for appointments, render telemedicine services when physical visits are not mandatory, promote pre-payments so the commitment is instilled, and so on. 

Dental membership plans can serve as a great motivator since they are customised according to a patient’s needs and give the patients a better personalised experience with their dentist. The monetary transactions can be direct thereby eliminating the third-party delays, documentation, and claim denials. 

You can increase your demand by denying instant appointments made right after cancellation and charging a cancellation fee. You are a professional and your time has an economic value upon which your lifestyle relies. Make sure it isn’t squandered.

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