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How to Keep Patients from Cancelling Appointments: 4 Strategies for DSOs

By Planet DDS
November 19, 2021

Last minute emergencies can come up. Or a patient can overbook their schedule or simply forget about their appointment. Patients are human and life gets busy. But your practice can take steps to minimize last minute cancellations and no-shows as much as possible. By implementing a few proactive strategies, you can: 1) set up an appointment workflow to keep new and current patients on track, 2) ensure patients return for recare appointments, and 3) protect your schedule and revenue cycle.  

Four strategies for reducing dental patient cancellations and no-shows 

1. Train and support your team 

Your team has dozens of patient interactions each day. It’s easy for there to be some variance in the quality and consistency of their interaction with patients. 

For example, the hectic front-desk environment of treatment presentations and checking patients in and out can easily allow appointment reminders to slip. Your front-office staff may get tied up with other tasks and inadvertently forgotten to send appointment reminders. 

  • Review your appointment protocols with your team regularly during team meetings and morning huddles. 
  • Investigate common reasons why patients are cancelling appointments. 
  • Evaluate any inside or outside factors that could be causing patient apathy about dentistry, including treatment protocols, inconveniences, financial strains, etc. 
  • Brainstorm ideas to counter and improve upon the factors contributing to patient behaviors around their appointments. 

2. Communicate appointment benefits and urgency 

When speaking with patients about treatment options, it helps to personalize the message, so patients understand that you’re invested in their oral and overall health and they should be, too. By emphasizing the positives of staying on top of their oral health, you help patients understand that it’s not just about keeping an appointment, it’s to benefit their own health.  

Here are a few ways you can help patients connect their appointment to the benefits they can expect from it.  

  • Log patient notes regarding their personal health goals, upcoming events, and other relevant personal info. 
  • Review each patient’s notes prior to their appointment confirmation. 
  • Personalize your verbiage around relevant information, the benefits they will receive from their appointment, and the urgency of treatment follow through. 
  • Provide options if a patient calls to cancel. Ask them if it’s the day or the time. Use open/available time blocks to get them immediately rescheduled.  
  • Follow up immediately with a patient who no-shows. Make an effort to get them rescheduled. 
  • Put processes in place that allow patients to provide more advanced notice if they need to cancel an appointment.  

3. Automate patient appointment confirmations 

It used to be that the default for appointment confirmations was either by phone or in some instances a mailed postcard. These days, it’s essential to know what communication mode your patients prefer and respond accordingly. 

Automation capabilities can help assure that patients aren’t slipping-through-the-cracks. Automating your patient appointment confirmations will tip towards text and email reminders. 

  • Maximize your dental practice management platform to automate reminder and follow-up workflows. 
  • Craft your appointment confirmations with a conversational tone to increase readability and compel a response. 
  • Schedule reminders early and steadily in the weeks leading up to the appointment. Two-week, two-day, and day-of reminders are common. 

4. Acknowledge patients for keeping appointments and being punctual 

Patients feel the value of keeping their appointments when you honor their scheduled time. You can help them feel great about keeping appointments and arriving on time by complimenting them for prioritizing their oral health. 

  • Provide convenient, time-saving options for appointments. For example, some dental issues can be discussed and/or diagnosed via teledentistry. 
  • Set up pre-payment solutions that enable patients to invest in their treatment ahead of the appointment. Paying in advance helps instill commitment to their scheduled visit. 
  • Create an online patient portal where patients can schedule, complete necessary forms, communicate in advance about any changes to their appointment, health history, insurance, and make payments.  

Patients who feel that your practice is invested in not only their oral health but also their entire patient journey are more likely to keep their schedule commitments. Be consistent with showing appreciation for showing up and valuing their dental health. 

Use the following resources to create the dental practice environment that will prompt patients to value their oral health commitments.  

Create Loyal Patients by Improving the Patient Experience 

How to Improve Your Chairside Manner and Create an Elevated Dental Patient Experience 

Manage and automate your dental patient communication to help reduce cancellation and no-show percentages  

Cloud solutions by Planet DDS can help you improve your patient relationships and your overall dental practice management.  

Book a demo and discover how our solutions can support your patient communication and appointment follow-up.