Six ways to manage broken appointments

March 17, 2010

By Dr. Roger Levin

Broken appointments disrupt schedules and cost practices serious money. However, they don’t have to be a given for any practice. With the right training, team members can successfully deter patients from missing appointments.

The following tips can help your scheduling coordinator and team effectively manage broken appointments:

1. To keep their appointments, patients need motivation.
Appeal to patients’ desire to maintain good oral health and remind them of the value of keeping their appointments. For example, if the office informs callers that the doctor is concerned about them missing their appointments, patients sense a negative consequence for themselves. The result — patients are far more motivated to keep their appointments!

2. Always make confirmation calls. This act alone can make all the difference. Some people are forgetful, and a simple confirmation call can often ensure that they show up. Don’t settle for just calling home phone numbers. Be sure to call patients’ work phones, or better yet, their cell phones.

3. The scheduling coordinator should be well prepared to handle patients who try to break appointments. This situation is best handled with scripts. Levin practices use PowerScripting™ to deliver consistent and accurate information. There is another purpose as well — to create a disciplined practice that does not simply ignore broken appointments.

4. The doctor should always know if patients break appointments. In some cases the missed appointment is detrimental to the practice, but not so much for the patient. In other cases, it’s also very detrimental to the patient. The doctor needs to know who has broken appointments and why so that he or she can determine the next step.

5. Stick to your policy with all patients. Never allow any patient to continuously disrupt your schedule. Just one offender can cost your practice hundreds of dollars every year. While this isn’t a great deal of money by itself, imagine the cumulative effect of a dozen patients doing the same thing. Put patients on notice that missed appointments cost the practice money and, consequently, cause fees to be raised.

6. Call attention to your policy. Your appointment cards should spell out clearly, “If for any reason you cannot keep this appointment, please call our office at least 48 hours in advance. There will be a fee for missed appointments.” Emphasize this point. Let patients know that your office is very serious about this policy.

In this economy, it is crucial to reduce the number of broken appointments. Every missed appointment means lost production for the practice. With these six strategies, practices can exponentially minimize broken appointments and increase production.

Dr. Roger P. Levin is chairman and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc., the leading dental practice management firm. Levin Group provides Total Practice SuccessTM, the premier comprehensive consulting solution for lifetime success to dentists in the U.S. and around the world. To learn more about Total Practice Success Consulting, go to, call (888) 973-0000, or send an e-mail to [email protected].