3 ways to reduce no-shows in your dental practice

One of the most frustrating parts of dental practice is when patients do not show up for their appointments. Here are some ways to keep that from happening.

Nov 26th, 2018
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The no-show. It’s the equivalent of getting stood up, except with higher consequences. If a date stands you up, it results in hurt pride and a wasted outfit. No-shows in your dental practice cost you money and hurt your practice.

Of course, things happen and there will be no-shows from time to time, but you need to ask yourself, What’s an acceptable no-show rate for my practice? It may surprise you to know that Levin Group’s target for no-shows is under 1%. Impossible? We don’t think so.

There are very effective ways to decrease no-shows and I firmly believe that a 1% no-show rate is an attainable goal. Here’s how you can reach that goal:

Create a sense of value and demand

Prior to the confirmation process, establish a high level of practice value for patients. In highly successful practices (with over $1 million in production per year, not including hygiene), patients have a high sense of value for the practice, which is continually communicated through internal marketing and communications.

Once value has been established, create demand. A patient who misses an appointment should not be given another appointment for several weeks, giving the impression that the practice is very busy and in demand. As always, scripting is critical for this type of communication, as I’ve outlined in my book, Essential Scripts for Patient Communication.

Have an effective confirmation process

In the past, confirmation phone calls were the norm. Unfortunately, according to the Levin Group Data Center, 10 years ago, 80% of confirmation calls went to home answering machines unchecked. Today, we recommend a combination of email and text messaging. Begin by establishing a confirmation protocol. We suggest that you confirm at two weeks, two days, and two hours. Most people today are overwhelmed in their lives and need a higher level of reminders.

Threaten to charge

The second time a patient misses an appointment in one year, let the person know that there is a $100 missed appointment fee but that the doctor said he or she would not charge them this time. This is usually the no-show reduction knockout blow. Most patients believe that there are no ramifications for missing their appointments. This technique is a positive way to educate patients that no-shows are not acceptable. It’s important to let patients know there is a consequence for no-shows even if you never actually intend to charge them. While there are practices that do charge patients for no-shows or last-minute cancellations, most patients never pay that fee. They leave the practice and take their families with them. Our approach focuses on retraining patients rather than penalizing them.

Every dentist knows that no-shows are no fun. Use these strategies to help decrease your no-shows and increase your practice success.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a dental management consulting firm that has worked with over 26,000 dentists. Dr. Levin, an internationally-known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and over 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs–Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of dental business education.


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