Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 02 Always Late 1

Stay productive with these dental appointment scheduling tips

Feb. 18, 2015
There are different types of patients, and the most annoying are the ones who don't show, or who show up late to their dental appointments, throwing off the whole scheduled day for everyone. Here are a few solutions to the problem.

Everyone who works in a dental practice is well aware that issues and problems can arise at any moment. People miss their appointments, and these can wreak havoc on an otherwise productive day.

The reasons for these are varied, but there are some daily occurrences that can and will happen to everyone. Some reasons why people miss their dental appointments include: the car broke down, the babysitter cancelled, the boss won’t let them leave work, and the list goes on and on.

In any case, things happen and everyone in the practice understands how annoying it is to have appointments cancel. Being in a dental office and knowing what happens when someone is a no-show makes it easy for me to discuss how to handle it. But not everyone is a no-show.

I believe there are four types of patients:
• The no-shows, who always schedule an appointment and almost always miss their appointment with no notice.
• The perfect patients, who never miss an appointment but call in advance if they do need to reschedule.
• The respectful patients, who make the most of their appointments and call if they cannot make it or will be late.
• The late-comers, who can never make their scheduled appointment time and always show up late.

The no-shows in particular can cause scheduling problems for the day, especially if productive treatment is scheduled. This affects both the patients and doctor. The patient does not receive the treatment they need in a timely fashion, which risks further damage. The doctor loses time, money, and equipment due to the patient who isn’t going to show.

I’ve tried different tactics to solve the scheduling issue, including speaking with patients about not calling to let us know they aren’t coming. We have a three-strike rule in our office, and after the third missed appointment, I warn patients that the next time they don’t show up, they’ll be charged a fee for missing their appointment. They usually understand and apologize. A way to solve the gap left in the schedule by their cancellation is to “side book” the patient. In case someone doesn’t show, the doctor has other patients to see and no one’s time is wasted.

Perfect patients are the backbone of the practice. They helped build up the practice and are faithful clients. These patients care about their treatment and make the effort to show up to their appointments. If something does come up that they cannot make it for their appointment, they the office notice. Staff members should praise these patients because they are the ones who usually refer their friends and family and are a staple in growing your practice.

The respectful patients are those who care about their treatment, but when they will be late or must cancel, they call the office and figure out what to d, whether it’s to come in late or reschedule their appointment. These patients also refer friends and family. As long as the cancelled appointments or lateness does not become a trend, I give these patients a break and give them a chance to make up the time.

The latecomers are more difficult to handle because they disturb the flow of the schedule and can cause the doctor to run late. If these patients are often late, we warn them that if they’re late, they’ll have to wait until the doctor is finished with his or her current patient, or they can choose to reschedule their appointment. This lets patients know that the doctor’s time is valuable, but they should realize that their own time is valuable too! We often give patients who have a hard time showing up on time an appointment time that is a half hour earlier than we have them down for, and this way the doctor can continue to run on time with no disturbances.

ALSO BY LAUREN ZAGARDO:Handling angry patients in the dental office

Having patients in the office who respect the doctor and the staff and doctor’s time are a sweet relief to everyone on the patient’s treatment team. Problems can occur anytime, and a simple phone call can make all the difference in the schedule. This polite heads up can give the doctor and staff time to work out the schedule so that every patient has his or her allotted time with the doctor. The staff, the doctor, and the patient’s time are always valuable and should never be wasted.

Lauren Zagardo is a Practice Administrator with over six years of experience in the dental field. She has worked in several dental offices and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree at SUNY Farmingdale University's dental hygiene program. She works at a private practice in Bayside, New York.