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Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS is known as a top dental consultant by Dentistry Today.

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5 Tips to STOP Dental Appointment No-Shows

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

September 24, 2014

Patient no-shows in the dental office are nothing new.

The important question to ask is “How much might this problem be costing your dental practice today?” AND “How much have patient no-shows cost your dental practice this year?” Have you looked at these numbers?

The national average for a dental practice to remain in business is $350,000 USD and this does not include the doctors’ salary. The national average a dental practice brings in is $525,000 in revenue annually. This means that you will need to bring in approximately $328.00 an hour if you work 1600 hours annually.

If you have one patient each day cancel, how much will this cost you? Have you taken time to look at this lost of revenue? And even digging deeper, the question is “How many patients need an appointment to be scheduled?”

Every office our team analyzes has over 100 patients who have unscheduled hygiene appointments NOT counting unscheduled treatment! Do you look at your numbers often enough?

I hear a lot of dental offices say that open holes are a big problem in their practice so let’s talk about some solutions.

Today, I will focus on 5 Tips to STOP dental appointment no-shows in your office:

1.    Know what makes your patient tick

Has your office done a personality profile with your employees? This is a fun exercise that we do with our client and teams which not only helps us to understand ourselves better but helps us understand how to elegantly and very effectively communicate with our patients.

Here are a few examples of two patients who will schedule a next appointment:

Patient A is a COO of HP in San Francisco. He always wants to be in control, is analytical and doesn’t want to be told what to do. Typically this is a patient who does not need a reminder and will be putting the appointment you give him on his electronic calendar as you speak to him about his next appointment. You want to ask if he even needs an appointment confirmation text, email or phone call. Remember he wants to be in charge so let him take charge of his calendar. This is not your typical patient who will no show!

Patient B is very compassionate and empathetic. This patient is a mother who does a lot of volunteer work at her children’s school and even leads her daughters Girl Scout troop. You will know who patient B is because her sentences include words such as “I feel” and they smile a lot. This type of person has the opposite posture than the COO of HP (Patient A). It is likely that Patient B will want an email and a phone call to confirm her next dental appointment.

Sending the correct type of appointment confirmation (Or even a reminder of any type) is also very important. Some patients need a lot of hand-holding and others do not want a reminder of any type.

Know your individual patient types.

2.    Build VALUE for each patient appointment, type of service and especially the message about oral health related to their total health. People will sit up and listen when you tell them you know of a way to help them live a longer and healthier life!

There are numerous ways to build value and initially this begins with the first new patient phone call. From here it builds from the confirmation call and the warm welcome to your office. Once the patient is seated in the treatment room, it is imperative the conversations develop from the patients personality behaviors and build value according to the patients individual needs.

How well the patient receives this information is how valuable their next dental visit at your office becomes to them. This is the make it or break it.

Again, speak the language of your patient. Mirror and match them. Make them feel they are #1 to you and your office.

3.    Offer same-day dentistry. While you have a patient in the chair and even before the patient is seated in the chair ask yourself “Do they need fluoride, Sealants, or maybe a nightguard, etc.?”

If a patient no-shows and you have a patient in your chair who does need other services, now is a great time to add value and a benefit for your patient in the chair.

Your morning team huddle is a great time to discuss outstanding treatment for patients you will see that day. Before patients are seated in the chair is the best time to plan for your perfect day!

4.    Use a Short-list. When you have patients who continually no-show without a good reason, put them on a list for calling only when you have a last minute cancellation. SolutionReach is a patient engagement software that will create group lists of patients you can call when there is a last minute change in the schedule. (I don’t recommend you tell your patients you have these “Cancellations” but use the word “Change”) Using the group list in SolutionReach means you can be in contact with numerous patients in need of a specific appointment time and they all receive your message within about 90 seconds. It is an easy way to fill a last-minute cancellation!

Another solution may be to collect a non-refundable deposit which will go towards their service when they do show and if they no-show this money is not refunded to them. Money can be a motivator to many people.

AND if the patient will not do any of the above mentioned are they really the type of patient you want coming to your dental office? You are running a business and people need to respect that it costs money to run a business. You are not a charity.

5.    You Practice Policy. Last minute cancellations and no-shows can be eliminated when you have a practice policy in place for these things. (As well as financial policies, etc.)

When you have patients who chronically abuse your office policies, point out what your practice policy is and of course refresh their memory with the practice policy they have agreed upon and signed that they understand.

Does your practice policy require that patients be charged for missed appointments? This fee can be waived if it is the first time a patient has missed an appointment but do consider this to be your office policy. Kindly point it out to patients who do abuse the policy.

CONCLUSION

To minimize costly holes in your schedule and maintain productivity, you must create and follow a step-by-step system that trains patients to value their appointments and keep their commitments to your dental practice.

Your communication process with patients and within your dental office are critical pieces for reducing no shows and even eliminating holes in the schedule.

Always consider communicating the value of dental care and benefits of completing dental care to your patients before they even schedule their next dental appointment. Discover how your patients want to be reminded of future dental appointments AND IF they even want a reminder of any kind.

Not only do the patients need to understand your office policies but your team members need to know what they are as well. Schedule a team meeting to discuss policies in your office so every one on your team is “on the same page”.

Discuss outstanding patient dental treatment during your morning team huddle so you know which patients can have another service completed while they are in the chair IF there is a last minute opening in your schedule. When you do offer more services to a patient seated in your chair make sure to communicate the value and benefits for completing their treatment sooner than later. For example: If your patients’ hot button is “time” – while they are in your treatment chair this is a great candidate to ask if they can stay longer and complete more treatment. Tell this patient how much time will be saved if they stay a little longer to complete necessary treatment. Explain how staying a little longer can benefit them!