No-shows – they’re the nemesis of dental office managers everywhere. They throw your well-planned schedule out the window and leave your team in a tailspin mentally reshuffling the day in five-minute increments.

Last minute cancellations and patients that just ghost are more than annoying – they’re costly. In fact, Dental Economics reports that 10% of all dental appointments result in cancellations or no-shows, which can cost practices up to $70,000 a year in lost production1.

So, what’s a dental practice to do about no-shows? You might be surprised at the impact a few seemingly simple tactics can have.

Reminders.

Before you file this under “C” for Captain Obvious stay with us. We know, you’ve been using patient reminders for ages, right? That’s great, but (you knew it couldn’t be that easy) if you haven’t changed outreach methods in a while it makes sense to confirm patient preferences. Is your team reaching out to every patient with a friendly phone call? Do your senior patients receive the same text message or email reminder as your under 40 clientele?

Imagine if you tried to use the same instrument to remove plaque and apply sealant – makes you wince doesn’t it? Trust us, the busy mom who’s juggling multiple schedules will not take kindly to your team’s reminder phone call no matter how friendly. However, a quick text that allows her to confirm with the press of a button will make her life a smidge easier and reinforce your practice’s patient-first, up-to-date image. Bonus – 80% of patients in a Hanover Research study said they preferred text or email reminders over calls. Now, as convenient as technology is, it isn’t for everyone. For example, that email reminder doesn’t do Mrs. Smith any good if she never checks her inbox. We’re not suggesting that you choose one outreach method over another across the board, but rather tailor outreach to individual patient preferences.

We get it, your front desk team doesn’t have the time to act as a personal assistant for every patient – behold the magic of automation. Automated patient communication systems that integrate with your practice management software make it easy to deliver consistent communications that align with patient preferences, reinforce your practice’s high-tech image, and reduce no-shows. This means your practice can ensure reminders are received whether patients prefer text, email, phone or even postcard outreach. Think how much more effective reminders will be when patients actually receive them.

Engagement.

Let’s face it, when push comes to shove you’re less likely to miss an appointment with a doctor you know and trust than you are with someone to whom you have no connection. Building relationships with your patients not only creates loyalty, it also helps to reduce no-shows. While emergencies may come up from time to time, an engaged patient is less likely to “forget” a cleaning when it happens to fall on the first beach day of the season.

Just because a patient may only visit your practice twice a year, doesn’t mean you should limit your communication to appointment reminders. A great way to stay in-touch throughout the year is to send birthday wishes and holiday greetings via text, email, or old school greeting cards. This can help strengthen patient relationships and keep you top-of-mind between scheduled appointments. Worried that your front desk team will revolt if you add one more thing to their to-do list? Reference the magic of automation. An automated patient communication system makes it easy to ensure every patient gets personalized birthday and holiday greetings in the manner they prefer.

Have a back-up plan.

Life happens and when it inevitably hands you lemons be ready with a cup of sugar to turn them into sweet lemonade (although we won’t judge if, in a fit of frustration, you choose to first throw those lemons). People get sick, things come up and no-shows happen – end of story? Not for practices that utilize an ASAP list. These lists contain patients who would like to be seen sooner if possible, as well as those who can typically get to the office on short notice. Automated patient communication systems allow your team to quickly notify your ASAP list of last minute openings, which helps to keep your chair from growing cold.

So, how can you reduce no-shows? First, ensure appointment reminders get to patients by sending them via their preferred communication method – phone, postcard, text or email. Second, work on building patient relationships by staying in touch throughout the year. People are less likely to unnecessarily skip an appointment if they have a personal connection. Lastly, accept that while you can reduce no-shows, you can’t prevent them so implement an ASAP procedure to help you manage unexpected scheduling hiccups.

Unsure of where to go from here? PracticeMojo can help. Our solutions are designed to help dentists overcome common industry pain points. Call a Practice Coach today at 800.556.2580 to see how we can help you reduce no-shows and much more.

 

1 McGuire, Jen. “No More No-Shows.” Dental Economics, 17 Jan. 2014, www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-104/issue-1/practice/no-more-no-shows.html.