Reducing patient no-shows and cancellations begins by accepting that it’s impossible to guarantee that your patients will always keep their appointments. Once you accept that this falls outside your control, you can pool your efforts on the aspects that are within your control, and which help reduce no-shows and cancellations.
It is no secret that missed appointments cause a ripple effect that impacts your schedules, revenues, and the effectiveness of treatments. It strikes a serious blow to your bottom line. But with that said, there are effective safeguards you can put in place to address this issue. Before we explore these safeguards, let’s examine the key reasons behind no-shows and cancellations.
Typically, patients miss their appointments when they:
Forget their appointments
Don’t understand the importance of keeping their appointments
Misunderstand when their appointment is scheduled
Self diagnose and decide to skip their appointments
Worry about bad news and try to avoid the situation
Have a shallow relationship with the provider
Face financial challenges
There is a wide range of reasons for patients to miss their appointments, but most can be mitigated with improved patient-provider communication and by implementing the following safeguards.
It became widely accepted as a care delivery method after the 2020 pandemic, but thanks to the convenience offered to patients, teledentistry is here to stay. Outside the initial check-up and actual treatment, consultations and routine post-op visits can be performed remotely. The virtual interactions offer patients the opportunity to receive treatment in the comfort of their living room or office. The added benefit of leveraging teledentistry is it adds one less reason for patients to rethink or opt out of their dental appointments.
Another approach that has gained traction is using electronic forms to collect vital patient information. E-forms are a key feature of modern practice management software (PMS). This feature is now used widely to stay in line with the COVID-19 safety protocols. With this new norm, practices have completely replaced the clipboard and embraced digitization. Another fact that supports this approach is that 98% of patients who take time to fill out online forms commit to their appointments.
COVID-19 has added fuel to the fire of dental anxiety among patients. The risk of exposure is a valid fear. The best way for you to alleviate patient fears is with communication and education. Ensure you convey the safety protocols and measures followed at your practice to reduce the risks from COVID-19. Launching targeted email campaigns, and updating relevant information on your practice website and patient portals is an approach that can convey your commitment to patient care and safety and encourage patients to follow through with their appointments.
When you provide your patients with the option to make payments in advance, it reduces the instances of no-shows and benefits your collections and accounts receivable. Get paid upfront instead of having to wait for 2-3 months. Paying cash in advance leads to a stronger commitment from the patient. You can provide this option during patient checkout, especially when both you and your patient agree with the importance of scheduling the next appointment.
Offering upfront payment at this stage is apt, as the patient is likelier to take action and commit to their oral health. Another way to make it easy for them to pay is by providing an online payment method. Make sure that you inform your patient about your prepaid payment options. Market it through your campaigns, newsletters, and phone scripts.
Reminders are an effective way to reduce patient no-shows. Plan your appointment reminders and decide on a frequency that works best for your target clientele. Start off with a postcard, followed by email and text reminders. Add a phone reminder a few days before the scheduled appointment. Ensure that you cut down on reminders once you receive confirmation from your patients. Practice management software aids you to launch, coordinate and track your recall campaigns effectively.
Launch initiatives to reward patients who keep their appointments. The reward initiatives can include discounts or gift cards. The benefits of such an approach are twofold. You encourage your patients to follow through on your appointments and convey how much you value their participation. Moreover, curating such experiences helps you retain your customers.
Sometimes, patients simply forget an appointment. Send follow-up communication that can include a “We missed you at the practice” message. Follow this up with a phone call to encourage them to reschedule immediately.
It is crucial that your patients know the impact of your treatments on their oral health. If your patients are not invested in the outcomes of your treatment plan, it is unlikely that they will uphold their commitments. Educate your patient before every appointment. Remind them of the benefits of the procedure and the progress they’ve made so far. Explain the outcomes of the scheduled appointment and ensure that they are fully onboard. A phone reminder before the appointment will help refresh what they already know about the treatment plan and reduce no-shows.
Patients skip appointments because they owe your practice money or are worried the procedure will be too expensive. When this happens, it’s time to reexamine how you present payment plans. It’s important that payments never come as a surprise to the patient. This causes anxiety in the patient, especially when they expect hidden expenses from each visit. When payment plans and benefits are discussed upfront and agreed upon, patient no-shows due to financial concerns can be avoided.
The CareStack practice management solution allows you to effectively educate and communicate with your patients. Automating tasks like appointment reminders or confirmation/cancellation emails, filling last-minute openings, and sending online forms and other notifications to engage patients, practices can drastically cut revenue loss and staff workload while reducing patient no-shows and cancellations.