Reducing the cost of cancellations in your dental practice

Fortunately, there are a number of tested practices and new technologies that can help your practice reduce the number of broken appointments. Although there is no way to completely eliminate cancellations and no-shows, here are a few things that can help reduce them.

Jul 24th, 2015
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Small dental practices are faced with many different challenges and expenses. One of the most frustrating and costly of these challenges is frequent broken appointments and no-shows. According to some experts, one cancellation or no-show per day can result in losses up to $30,000 a year for a small dental practice. Broken appointments can affect the financial stability of a practice, reduce staff productivity, and take valuable clinic time away from other patients in need of dental services.

Fortunately, there are a number of tested practices and new technologies that can help your practice reduce the number of broken appointments. Although there is no way to completely eliminate cancellations and no-shows, here are a few things that can help reduce them.

These friendly team members greet patients when they visit Ryan Long, DDS. From left are dental assistants Kim and Leah, dental hygienists Shelley and Cindy, and front office team members Vicki and Mary Helen.

• One of the best ways to reduce broken appointments is to use appointment reminders. In our practice we use a variety of reminders that allow us to contact patients according to their preferred method of communication. Most patients appreciate this and many have come to rely on these reminders. Of the techniques we use, the most successful are text messaging, email, and personal rather than automated confirmation calls.

• We have also found that the highest rate of broken appointments come from new rather than existing patients. This makes sense because a relationship has not yet been cultivated between patient and provider. To help with this we’ve found that a personal welcome call from the dentist to new patients after their initial visit helps initiate this relationship and reduces broken appointments among new patients. Reducing the wait time for a visit is also important in reducing cancellations and no-shows.

• Another way to help reduce broken appointments is to offer same-day treatment when possible. Many patients appreciate not having to take time away from their busy schedule for a second appointment. Keeping them in the office to complete treatment rather than scheduling them two to three weeks out can make a big difference.

• Finally, patients need to understand the importance of treatment for their own health and become educated about the negative impact canceling can have on a small business. When people are invested in their dental plan and understand the importance of receiving care, they are much less likely to cancel or not show. Patients are also less likely to break an appointment when they understand the impact it can have on your business. One way to achieve this is to put a simple explanation about the negative impact of broken appointments in your written practice cancellation policy.

While broken appointments will always be a challenge dental offices will face, communication with patients is critical to help reduce the frequency and cost of these missed appointments. Contacting patients by their preferred method of communication, building personal relationships, offering same-day treatment, educating about the importance of treatment, and explaining the impact of broken appointments can all help reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows. While no method or plan is perfect, we’ve found this variety of techniques has helped reduce the number of broken appointments.

Ryan Long, DDS, is the owner of Ryan Long DDS, LLC, in Dayton, Ohio. He is passionate about providing personalized patient care in his community.

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