Up pops the everlasting question about cancellations and no-shows. I received this urgent email on Saturday, and I wanted to give this doctor a little more detailed answer than I could provide in a text or email.
Here is the email question:
Also, send me any articles you have or would encourage us to read since we’ve had more no-shows than we’d like the past 2 weeks.
We give them a week reminder, and a day before reminder via text or call (depending what they have asked) …if we do not get a confirmation back via text, we call.
Would love to know what else to do or keep in mind.
First off, I have to compliment them on actually watching the numbers and catching this early. Secondly, I would remind each of you that we have a search function on the homepage of our website (www.summitpracticesolutions.com) that provides access to hundreds and hundreds of articles that you can access for free. I would follow up with a criticism of them automatically giving me a run down on how they try to prevent them rather than why the situation exists.
In the consumer driven service business that we find ourselves in, the first question should be the “why” of a situation. If your systems are precisely designed to give you what you are getting, then the logical conclusion would be that if you fall short, you are doing something wrong without even knowing why. Allow me to set the stage and then give you the top cancellation and no-show “whys” to chew on. Following that you might research the topic further on our web site.
As it stands it is just a matter of days before the holidays, so most people get distracted by social engagements and family involvement and find themselves short of time for their previous commitments. This social pressure and the euphoria of a holiday will naturally make it more difficult to minimize cancellations and no-shows. You might remind patients that this is also the time of the year where they either use their insurance benefits or lose them. Secondly, from the email, they have committed the ultimate sin of practice management by relying a third-party messaging system as an adequate recall and confirmation strategy. Companies like Demandforce, Lighthouse 360, and Solutionreach, to name just a few, are not substitutes for a well thought out and executed recall and confirmation strategy. They are merely an adjunct to a system that is working well.
Here is a down and dirty list of the main reasons why patients fail to appear for their appointments:
- Relying on an automated system to confirm your appointments: Speaking to an appointed patient for treatment creates accountability with the patient while making it difficult for them to cancel. A human being is the only thing that works to stymie reluctant patients from cancelling with a software program. Your patients absolutely love the fact that you’ve provided such a quick and easy way for them to skip out of an appointment. That is almost impossible with a well-trained staff member who has all the answers and knows the “whys”.
- Money and/or not sufficiently helping the patient to budget the expense of their dentistry: Yep, money raises its ugly head again. Money and the cost of services will always be a concern to our patients. Your job is to offer solutions for making the investment for dentistry fit into their already tight budget.
- Time: Consumers are better educated and competition is growing. If you constantly can’t find a time for someone to come in during the peak demand times that they require, the result will always be more cancellations and no-shows.
- Scheduling more than 4-10 days into the future for clinical treatment: Cancellations and no-shows will double if you can’t get your patients back in a timely fashion. The inability to get them back within 4-10 days (not working days – calendar days) is the sign of a terminal capacity blockage. Check your schedules and make sure you have capacity. If not, act to correct it now.
- Fear: Patients will always shy away from their appointments if you don’t address their fear of pain. With conscious sedation and nitrous oxide, and the availability of Anesthesiologists to come to your office to sedate patients, this should no longer be a challenge. The real challenge is having your staff pick up on this as being a barrier to the patient having treatment done in the first place.
- Lack of Trust: This is the granddaddy of all the “whys” of cancellations and no-shows. Once again, you and your staff have to be experts at reading non-verbal communication with the patient. You must take the time to develop the rapport you need in order for them to trust your diagnosis and your office with the health and treatment of their mouths.
Take the time to research further articles to pick up the details of what a great recall and confirmation system looks like on our website. In addition, if you will give Max Gotcher a call at 800.252.0955, he can show you how to obtain a 30-page report on eliminating no-shows and cancellations. This is how you Summit: Practice Management done right!
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS — I have the perfect Christmas present for each of you to give yourselves. Max has made it possible to purchase any item(s) from our website at a 50% discount for a limited time. These DVD’s and books contain hundreds of “gems” that will help you make 2018 your best year ever. Don’t miss this opportunity to purchase these items for half-price. Just go to our website (www.summitpracticesolutions.com/our-products/), choose the items you’d like to have, and at checkout enter the promo code BestForYou. You’ll be glad you did. Merry Christmas!