Sheri's Solutions: Not on the schedule

2015 03 31 16 23 41 686 Doniger Sheri 2015 200

"So sorry -- I don't see any appointments in my schedule for June."

We received this email from a patient. The patient received a date for a follow-up appointment to deliver an occlusal guard the day he had his impressions taken. We worked around his travel schedule. He typed the appointment into his smartphone (or so we thought), and left the office.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

We called to confirm the appointment and received no call, email, or text stating the appointment was not on his schedule. An interesting side note: He thought his next appointment was on a day in July when it was scheduled for September. He may have looked at his 2015 calendar. This is not the first time he has missed an appointment with the same excuse. One occasion may have been excusable; two instances are not acceptable.

It's frustrating when a patient does not show up for an appointment. The office and team are ready. You are in a mindset to complete a specific treatment. The disappointment of both lost time and revenue is not constructive. Additionally, it is very difficult to fill an appointment time from a no-show patient.

As protocol, we call our patients five to seven days before their appointment. The script is the same: "This time is reserved exclusively for you. Please let us know if your schedule changes. There will be a fee assessed if you miss an appointment without contacting us 48 hours prior to your scheduled appointment. Please call/text to confirm that this appointment is on your schedule."

We truly try to cover all bases. We request that the patient confirm that the appointment is on their schedule, though they rarely do, except in text messages.

It is a new age in the dental office. There are certain patients who work on their own schedule, not ours. Some opt to see dentists through coupons or only when they feel the need to have their teeth cleaned.

“Please do not blame your business manager or assistant who do their best to confirm the schedule.”

These patients do not necessarily respect a professional's time, even though they value the professional enough to seek care in their office. From patients who may have their cell phone constantly ringing during treatment to those who conveniently forget their schedule and try to blame it on our front desk, they will always be a part of our practices.

Regarding the patients who habitually feel it is OK to abuse your office policies, please do not blame your business manager or assistant who do their best to confirm the schedule. Your script may be perfect. Patients may not "hear" it or realize its implications. At the next appointment (if you are generous enough to allow a next appointment), it may be prudent to discuss the situation with the patient. Some offices are intolerant of missed appointments. Three strikes and you're out, so to speak.

The vexation in this scenario is that it's not the first time and, most likely, will not be the last time with this particular patient. If he continues in our practice, we will discuss with him the need to give the office 48 hours of notice if he is unable to keep an appointment, especially if it is an appointment he "felt" was not on his schedule. We will have a conversation with this young man when he returns to pick up his occlusal guard. Until then, we will work on perfecting our script and finding that correct language to impart the importance of keeping your scheduled time.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is the immediate past president of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

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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