We have all been there; you pick up the phone and your patient on the other end wants to cancel their appointment. What do you do next? How are you currently handling these phone calls?
We believe an important part of controlling cancellations is seeking to understand why your patients are cancelling. There’s only one person who knows why, so you need to ask your patients. If this has not been part of your conversation with patients in the past, it might be a little uncomfortable at first. PRACTICE it!
It’s important to remember to ask with the appropriate energy and empathy. Finding out the “why” from a patient who is calling to cancel can be as simple as saying; “I’m sorry to hear that. What is going on?” Then, actively listen to their response.
Once you know the “why,” you can find a solution
Give the patient the opportunity to help you find a solution. “We do require 48 hours for any appointment changes. How can I help you keep this appointment today?” Give the patient time to think so they can help you with a solution that will work best for them. Maybe they need to be in or out at a certain time.
Next, get creative with the full scope of your schedule. Work to find a solution that helps the patient keep their appointment, while still supporting your clinical team with the appropriate amount of time.
If you can’t find a solution today, no problem. Follow these tips when rescheduling to avoid cancellations in the future:
- Your next available appointment for them should be 4-6 weeks out. If they don’t want to wait, they might just find a solution to keep their appointment
- You can place them on your VIP or Priority list and inform them you’ll call if something becomes available
- We know rare cases come up where a patient has a true emergency out of their control, so when this happens, make sure to empathize and do the right thing
Practice these conversations with your team members so everyone is confident seeking the “why” and proactively looking for solutions. By having these conversations you will become a schedule master and your patients will become accustomed to keeping their appointments with YOU!
6 tips to minimize the number of cancellations
Find out where your cancellations are coming from. Is there a trend? Depending on the most common reasons, there may be office systems and protocols to adjust or implement to help. Here are some tips to try, find what works best for your office and patient base:
- Consider requiring 48 business hours notice for patients to make any changes to an appointment
- Make sure your patients are aware of this policy change
- No appointment changes via text or voicemail
- You could change your office voicemail to include “For any appointment changes, we require them to be made during business hours and cannot accept them via voicemail.”
- Text message response
- Thank you for letting me know. We can’t take appointment changes via text. Give me a quick call and I’ll be sure to help you out.
- New patient cancellations
- Try having patients return completed new patient paperwork 48 hours prior to their appointment to confirm and secure their appointment
- Restorative patient cancellations
- Consider requiring a 10% deposit for restorative appointments when scheduling
- Hygiene patient cancellations
- What does your confirmation system look like? Would modifying it help?
- Best practice is to email/text/phone reminders prior to the appointment: 2 weeks, 1 week, 2-3 days, and day of
- Patients not confirmed 48 hours in advance
- Hygiene patient cancellations
- “Hi, this is [your name] from [your office]. I was calling to let you know we have you on our schedule on [date/time]. We do require verbal confirmation that this appointment still works for your schedule. We look forward to seeing you.”
- Call again 24 hours in advance. If still not confirmed, consider shortening or removing the appointment from the schedule and try to “work them in” if they show up
Kiera is the owner and founder of The Dental A Team and consults in over 100 dental offices nationwide. Together, her team tackles in-person dental office coaching. Her mission is to help clients achieve maximum success and efficiency. She is also a partner in several dental offices, and has worked in just about every position within her own practices. This gives her the skill set and perspective to help you positively change the structure and culture inside of your dental practice.
The Dental A Team is a trusted eAssist Dental Solutions partner. Email hello@TheDentalATeam.com and mention eAssist for preferred partner pricing!