Director's Message: 9 tips to fill unfilled hygiene appointments

A high number of no-shows, cancellations, and unfilled appointment times cause a lot of stress for the doctor and hygienist. It affects the schedule, efficiency, profitability, balance, service, and salaries.

A high number of no-shows, cancellations, and unfilled appointment times cause a lot of stress for the doctor and hygienist. It affects the schedule, efficiency, profitability, balance, service, and salaries. Use the following as a checklist to see what you are already implementing and what you may want to consider implementing to reduce your practice’s unfilled hygiene hours in 2014:

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  1. Track your unfilled hygiene hours. Having a statistical benchmark (number) is the basis for creating an action plan to reduce unfilled hygiene hours to no more than 10% by a designated time…knowing the target norm is 5%.
  2. Use a co-diagnostic approach. The hygiene experience needs to be co-diagnostic. If you explain, for example, the purpose of the perio probe and the meaning of pocket depths, then call out the depths as you measure them. This way, patients understand the facts when you do and have the capacity to draw conclusions for themselves. This is much more effective than having your conclusions imposed upon them after an assessment they didn’t understand first-hand. Co-diagnosing results in patients knowing what needs to be done and why, raising the chances of the patient being committed to treatment before you present it.
  3. Address the patient’s motivations and concerns. To influence patients to adopt treatment, address their motivations and concerns and provide a solution to their chief complaint. If a patient’s chief complaint is that she wants a better smile for her wedding in three months, and you suggest she uses aligners or retainers for the next 8 months, you can expect opposition. Challenge yourself to tie in your treatment plan for healthy teeth and an improved smile for a lifetime with the patient’s long-term oral health goals while also addressing her more pressing needs for her wedding.
  4. React quickly. When a patient cancels, notice it. Call immediately and focus on meeting the patient’s — not the practice’s — needs. Say, for example: “We missed you today for your hygiene visit. Since you told us you definitely wanted to maintain your health, we’re concerned about what obstacles got in your way.”
  5. Pre-appoint patients for all recare visits three, four, or six months in advance. Schedule the recare visits directly from their treatment rooms as part of their patient education and debriefing session.
  6. The lost art of hand writing. Have each patient write his or her own name and address on the appointment postcard. This is a little mental trick, which continues to work even in this paperless age, that helps grab the patient’s attention several months later.
  7. Ring, email, text.Ask the patient if, in addition to the postcard they’ll be receiving, they will need a confirmation call, email, and/or text.
  8. Work it! Use a hygiene Quick Call plan to fill last minute openings.
  9. Sharpen your verbal skills. The sooner you build a relationship in which patients feel that you listen to and communicate with them to meet their needs, the sooner you will significantly reduce cancellations and no-shows.

Joy and Blessings this Holiday Season,

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, MSEC
RDH eVillage, Director

Kristine’s Disclosures: Kristine is a consultant and trainer with Pride Institute, and owner of Dental Influencers, LLC.

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