This will go on your permanent record

2015 02 15 23 17 12 996 Madow Brothers 200

It's a constant problem in dental practices -- a patient calls at 10:00 a.m. to cancel their 2:30 p.m. appointment. What do you do? Can the appointment be saved?

What you don't want to do is get into a fight with the patient or start asking a million questions about why the patient can't keep the appointment. He or she will most likely get defensive and nobody wins.

Richard H. Madow, DDS, and David M. Madow, DDS.Richard H. Madow, DDS, and David M. Madow, DDS.

So what do you do? Here is an amazing trick that is simple and saves around 50% of your last-minute cancellations When Mrs. Jones calls to cancel, simply say, "Mrs. Jones, please allow me to put you on a brief hold while I retrieve your patient record."

This is pretty much the only time we recommend putting patients on hold. Keep them there for around two minutes while you look at their record and have a brief conversation with the doctor or hygienist if necessary.

They are now listening to your great on-hold message, getting a little squirmy, and feeling kinda guilty. Then come back and say:

"Mrs. Jones, thanks for your patience. It looks like we have you scheduled for a 30- minute appointment to do a tooth-colored filling restoration on the lower right. Dr. Sardonicus is concerned that if you don't get this taken care of as soon as possible, the decay can grow and cause an even bigger problem, which will need more extensive treatment. Is there any way possible you can keep this appointment?"

“Nobody wants to feel like they're in trouble or causing inconvenience.”

Do the same for hygiene, but say something like, "Your hygienist Becky is concerned about the area of inflammation and infection on the upper left."

With this method, you make two things clear to patients:

  • You care about their health.
  • You have their file handy, and you are probably planning to make a note that they broke the appointment.

Even if you don't have a policy in place in which you charge a fee for missed appointments (and we hope you don't), nobody wants to feel like they're in trouble or causing inconvenience. If you're too nice and nonchalant about patients blowing you off, they are a lot more likely to do it again in the future.

Amazingly, using this technique saves around 50% of those pesky last-minute cancellations. That is good for your patient, good for your schedule, and money in the bank!

In 1989, Richard H. Madow, DDS, and David M. Madow, DDS, founded The Madow Brothers with the goal of helping their fellow dentists achieve success and happiness in their practices. For more information about their e-letters, audio series, New Patient Mail marketing program, Dental Powerhouse group, their live presentations (including "How To Love Dentistry, Have Fun, and Prosper," "The Ultimate Dental Boot Camp," and especially "TBSE"), and more, check them out at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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