Dos and don'ts for scheduling: Work with the 48-hour rule

2013 08 19 16 17 54 253 Roger Levin 200

No-shows and last-minute cancellations can create serious scheduling and production problems, but there are some techniques to help minimize these occurrences. One 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 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 then "find" an opening several days later, you'll be training them to value the appointment.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the chairman and CEO of practice management consulting firm Levin Group.

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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