Patients who don’t show up can affect your bottom line. Here’s what you can do.
They are the bane of many dental practices: patients who just don’t show up for scheduled appointments. Even if you charge for missed appointments, the damage to your scheduling and your practice’s finances is done. How to prevent no-shows, or at least minimize the harm they do to your practice? Try the following.
- Call them. According to a 2010 American Medical News study, no-show rates were lowest when patients had a call from an actual person in your practice. Automated calls, emails, and texts were also effective, if somewhat less so.
- Consider financial repercussions. While this is somewhat controversial, the threat of cancellation fees may help convince patients to show up for their appointments. Some practices charge a provisional fee on a visit, which is then removed when the patient shows up for a follow-up appointment. Others charge for the appointment if it hasn’t been canceled more than 24 hours previously. Note that this charge may be more onerous for some patients than others. You might also consider a positive financial reward rather than a punishment, for instance a monthly or seasonal reward drawing for patients who come to appointments on time.
- Know who’s missing appointments — and why. If there are particular patients that regularly miss appointments, identify them. Once you have a clear sense of whom you’re dealing with, you can help them more effectively. Be sure your reminders are reaching them, and that you have their up-to-date contact information. Reinforce the importance of healthcare, and provide patient education materials to drive home your message. Studies show that targeting specific behaviors and groups of patients has been successful in other practices.
- Prevent problems. If you have a patient who frequently doesn’t show up for appointments, consider scheduling him or her when it will have the smallest effect on your schedule, either by making it the last appointment of the day or by scheduling another patient soon after.
- Be a model. Try to see all of your patients in a timely manner, and thank them for their promptness, when applicable. Showing patients you respect their time may help them respect yours.
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