Tuesday Tip from Pride Institute: What to say to patients who try to cancel

In order to reduce cancallations and no-shows, here is some helpful dialogue to discourage patients from cancelling or not showing up for their appointments in the future.

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Every dental practice has a perfectly filled schedule in theory, only to have it fall apart due to late cancellations and no shows. There are ways to respond to patients who cancel late that will encourage them to keep to their appointed time. In the event the appointment cannot be saved, professional phone skills can communicate the importance of keeping their future appointments.

Dental Office CancellationsHere are some ways to respond to patients, depending on the situation.

Too busy: “As you know, our appointments are reserved and I’m not sure we’re going to be able to find another time that’s more convenient for you. Is there any way you can keep this appointment?”

Sick: “I’m so sorry to hear about your illness. If you’re not too uncomfortable, we would still prefer to see you rather than reschedule.” If the patient still demurs, don’t argue. Reschedule and send the patient a Get Well card.

Undetermined reason: Check the patient’s chart to find a clinical or another reason the patient needs to return to the office. “I see that our hygienist was concerned about the number of bleeding points you had and I know she would like to see you keep your hygiene schedule. Is there any way you can make this appointment?”

If the office charges a fee, the first time a patient late-cancels, the fee should be waived. The statements above should be followed by, “Normally we charge a late cancellation/administrative fee if the cancellation occurs within a certain timeframe. Because we have not discussed this with you before, I know the dentist will want to waive this fee today. I’ll make a note in your recrods that this fee is waived. Now let’s get you into the soonest available appointment.”

If this is the second time the patient cancels, the response should be, “I’m sorry to hear that you can’t make your appointment. Your records indicate that this is the second appointment you’ve cancelled with short notice. As we noted last time, because these appointments are reserved just for you, we require XX hours notice to change them. I regret that we must charge a fee when you do not give us sufficient notice. So that you do not incur this fee, is there any way you can keep this appointment?”

If the practice does not charge a fee, you can ask the patient for a deposit. “I’m sorry to hear that you need to cancel this appointment. I know it must be an emergency for you to have to change your appointment again at this late date. In order to reserve another appointment with us, I’m going to ask you to prepay for the appointment at this time. Then we’ll see when there is availability in our schedule so that you can see us as soon as possible.”

Good luck decreasing the number of late cancels and no-shows in your practice!

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Tuesday Tips from Pride Institute are provided weekly on their Facebook page as well as in this column in DentistryIQ. To ensure you don’t miss any of Pride Institute’s proven methods to take your practice to the next level, visit prideinstitute.com, and like them on Facebook.

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