No-shows and last-minute cancellations create serious scheduling and production problems, but there are some techniques to minimize these occurrences. One strategy is to establish and call attention to the 48-hour rule, which calls for 48 hours' notice to cancel an appointment.
Emphasize the rule politely. To remind patients of the 48-hour rule without seeming heavy-handed, print it on appointment cards and simply highlight the rule with a highlighter or red pen. Also, if you are discussing the rule with patients, be sure to explain that if the practice receives notice of a cancellation less than two days before the appointment, the practice will probably lose income that cannot be replaced. Many patients will be sympathetic and try to avoid creating such a problem.
Don't make it seem too easy to reschedule. If there are no consequences for canceling at the last minute or simply not showing, patients may not make an effort to show up as agreed. Reschedule them five to six weeks later, and offer to put them on a waiting list. Even though you will "find" an opening several days later, you're training patients to value the appointment.
Dr. Roger P. Levin is CEO of Levin Group, a leading practice management and marketing consulting firm. To contact him or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit LevinGroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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