What to Do When Patients Cancel Appointments

June 13, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

Is your dental office struggling with the headaches and hassles of patients who frequently cancel their appointments? Cancelled appointments hit your practice where it hurts: right in the bottom line. Not only are you wasting valuable chair time and losing out on the income from the cancelled appointment, but your front desk staff is also spending their valuable time calling other patients in an attempt to fill the spot.

What can you do when patients repeatedly cancel appointments at the last minute? Here are some popular options that can help minimize cancellations.

  • Charge a cancellation fee. You can charge a set rate, such as $50 or $75, or a percentage of what the planned treatment would have cost. The latter option can be effective for preventing cancellations of more expensive procedures. Just make sure that patients know about the cancellation policy upfront—include the information in your new patient packet and have new patients sign to acknowledge they understand. You can also place prominent signs in your waiting room as a reminder.
  • Send reminder messages. Find out how each patient prefers to hear from your office — by phone, email or text — and send multiple reminders ahead of time. Three weeks before the appointment, three days ahead and one day ahead is a good reminder cadence for most patients. Save staff time by automating the reminder process with Lighthouse 360.
  • Offer a variety of payment options. Often, patients cancel appointments because they can't afford to pay in full.  Prevent this situation by informing patients about payment options when they make the appointment, such as any discounts, financing programs or payment plans you offer.
  • Fill the empty appointments — automatically. Fill-In is a new feature in Lighthouse 360 that automates the process of filling appointments when patients cancel at the last minute. Here's how it works: Fill-In automatically detects any cancellations in your schedule and sends messages to a targeted list of patients who have expressed interest in getting appointments ASAP. When patients respond, Fill-In schedules the appointment and messages all of the patients. All your front desk staff has to do is confirm the appointment from right within the Lighthouse 360 portal — there’s no need for time-consuming mass texting or phone calls.

With Fill-In, your front desk team will have more time available to focus on growing your practice. Your practice will have a steady stream of revenue coming in. Your dentists and hygienists won't sit idle. Last, but not least, your patients will be pleased to get appointments faster without playing phone tag.

Lighthouse 360 already helps dentists who use it reduce no-shows and cancellations by 40 percent. Imagine what adding Fill-In to your practice management arsenal can do.

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