Thursday Troubleshooter: How to solve holes in the dental hygiene schedule

This dental hygienist is sick of holes in her schedule and working her recare list. This solution offers a fresh approach to tackling no-shows as well.

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QUESTION: Help! I’ve had it with the holes in my hygiene schedule. Is there a better way than just working my re-care? I am really tired of calling the same people over and over. What can I do?

ANSWER FROM SHELLEY RENEE, Shelley Renee Consulting:
Good news. There is another kind of list you can create. This one will take a little time to collect, but it will be well worth the effort.

First, you need to acknowledge that not all patients will fit into your scheduling mold. You know your patients and you know who’s going to cancel or no show. Yet, most of us schedule six-month recare appointments for these patients anyway. Does this make sense? In six months are these patients miraculously going to become organized and keep their appointments? Not likely. Stop treating and scheduling this group the same as your responsible appointment keepers.

I suggest you quit expecting all patients to be good appointment keepers. Wouldn’t it be better if you had a list of patients to call at a moment’s notice? This is not exactly the same as your quick call list. The difference is that quick call people are usually already scheduled and will take an earlier appointment if offered. This new list is a special list for patients who should not be pre-appointed. I call this the "booyah list." (Definition of booyah: Abruptly expressing great joy usually brought on by victory or some other accomplishment.)

The "booyah list" should be comprised solely of your chronic no-show/cancelers patients. Here is what you should say when managing these patients: “Wow, Mr. No-show, I am so sorry to hear that you cannot keep your appointment. It seems that your schedule makes it very challenging to keep appointments. I have something that might work better for you. It’s a special deal, just for you. When you’re in town and your schedule allows, call me and I’ll let you know what appointment times are available. Likewise, if I find something available on my end, do you mind if I call and offer it to you?”

What happened? The dynamics totally changed. You’re no longer allowing these people to wreck your schedule. They feel appreciated because you offered a “special” way to help them. You now have someone at the ready next time you need to fill an appointment. Isn’t this better than making patients feel guilty, or punishing them with a fee or dismissal?

You stop the futility of scheduling people, only to have them cancel. You have a healthy list ready made for when you have openings. This is when I yell, “Booyah!” These people have become my schedule savers instead of schedule crashers. I enjoy having them happy with me, all because I was so accommodating.

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