Missed patient appointments are problematic for the profitability of the dental practice. Motivating patients to keep their appointments and helping them return after a missed appointment is crucial to keeping the schedule full.
"When we added a nominal fee of $35, for a missed appointment, the charge was an immediate red flag to parents, and our 'No Show' rate quickly went down to almost zero." said Dr. Gorczyca.
Inefficiency occurs when there is a break in a chain of events. Nowhere is this more problematic for the dental practice then with “MIA” (missing in action), or "No Show", patients. Not only do these patients miss their appointments in your dental office, but they also forget to reschedule. If the issue remains unaddressed, you may lose the patient.
Even if confirmed, “MIA” patients will tell you that something came up, they couldn't take time off work, or they just plain forgot. To eliminate "No Shows," it is effective to charge a missed appointment fee. Tell your patient in advance that there will be a charge if their appointment is canceled without 48 hour notice. Follow up with telephone, e-mail and text messaging appointment confirmations.
When I was in dental school, I scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist. During the initial appointment phone call, the friendly receptionist told me, "If you miss this initial eye exam with the ophthalmologist, there will be a $95 charge; and this was a $95 charge in 1987! I imagine today the charge would be much higher. I certainly did not miss this appointment.
As an orthodontist, if I did not charge for missed appointments, many of the high school students walking to my office from the local high school next door would end up at the corner Burger King with their friends instead of at the office for their appointments. Indeed, years ago we did not charge for missed appointments. When we added a nominal fee of $35, for a missed appointment, the charge was an immediate red flag to parents, and our "No Show" rate quickly went down to almost zero.
Missed appointments also lead to lost patients. Many patients who miss their dental appointment forget to reschedule. Running an unscheduled patient report daily, weekly, or monthly to continuously monitor for “MIA” patients will help facilitate their return. Your attention to patient follow-up will not only remove office inefficiency but also show your patients how much you value having them in your practice.
Jack Hadley, in his new book "Your Social Practice", stated that 70 percent of patients who leave a dental practice do so because of the perceived practice's indifference. Yes, indifference. Patients simply don't think anyone in the dental office will even notice if they leave.
Withhold judgement as to why your patient missed their appointment and make every effort to get your patient back to your dental office. Doing so will keep your schedule filled while offering a high level of customer service as well as save time and money for both the patient and the dental office.
Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca is author of the book "At Your Service- 5-Star Customer Care for a Successful Dental Practice." She is an orthodontist in Antioch, California.
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