20 Tips to Reduce Dental Patient No-Shows

March 13, 2019 Rieva Lesonsky

lighthouse 360

No-show dental patients cut into your practice’s profits, throw off your schedule and waste time that could be spent helping other patients. How can you reduce no-shows in your practice? Try these 20 ideas.

  1. Call new patients in person to welcome them to the practice. A call directly from the dentist will make new patients feel valued before they even visit your office, making them less likely to be no-shows. The lifetime value of a new dental patient has been estimated as high as $36,000, so setting aside time to make these calls is well worth the effort.
  2. Educate patients on the importance of keeping appointments. Some 85% of Americans believe oral health is very or extremely important to their overall health, the ADA reports. When you contact patients to confirm an appointment, remind the patient of what you’ll be doing that day and why it matters (“We’ll be replacing your old filling to help prevent your tooth from cracking.”)
  3. Take extra care with patients in categories that are at higher risk of missing appointments. These might include patients who have previously missed appointments; young adults; people whose appointments were made for them by a spouse or parent; or patients who don’t have insurance.
  4. Try to schedule appointments the same day patients call. You can leave a certain percentage of your production time open to handle same-day appointments. Patients scheduled the same day are less likely to forget the appointment. (Here are some more tips for smart appointment scheduling.)
  5. Always give out appointment cards for appointments made in person. Even if the patient is writing down the appointment or putting it into their phone, a physical card can serve as a backup reminder.
  6. Use automated appointment reminders. The number-one reason patients don’t show up for medical appointments is simply forgetting, so reminders are essential.  Lighthouse 360 automates the reminder process to save your front desk time.
  7. Use the patient’s preferred contact method for reminders. Some patients never check email; others rarely answer the phone. Asking your patients how they prefer to hear from you and using that method increases the likelihood patients will get the reminder message. Lighthouse 360 lets you send reminder messages via phone, email or text to suit each patient’s needs.
  8. Send appointment reminders in the evening. Some patients can’t answer or check their phones during the work day. A voicemail or text received early in the day may be forgotten during a busy work day. Evening communications are more likely to be answered.
  9. Ask patients to contact you to confirm the appointment reminder. Make this as easy as you can—for example, something like “Text C to confirm you will be there.” This ensures that your reminders are received.
  10. Maintain up-to-date contact information for patients. Reminders that go to the wrong phone number are no good to anyone. Make it a practice to verify the patient’s contact information and preferred contact method during check-in at each appointment.
  11. Show your gratitude to patients who show up on time. You can provide small gift cards (like $5 Starbucks cards) for patients who come to their appointments on time. If that’s too expensive, hold a monthly prize drawing for all the patients who come to appointments on time that month.
  12. Clearly state your no-show policy. It’s legitimate to charge patients a fee for missed appointments; however, be sure to educate patients about your policy first. You can post your policy in the waiting room and include it in paperwork that new patients sign. You can also include it in your reminder messages.
  13. Reduce time in your waiting room. If patients regularly wait a long time to be seen, they may become cynical and feel you don’t value their time. This makes it easier for them to devalue your time by not showing up for an appointment.
  14. Keep a record of patients who frequently miss appointments. If you still want to keep them as patients, schedule them for times of day where a missed appointment won’t matter as much (such as near the time slots you keep open for new patients). Eventually, you may have to “fire” them as patients if they continue to miss appointments. (Try these tips for dealing with difficult dental patients.)
  15. Give "frequent offenders" special treatment. Patients are much less likely to miss same-day appointments and appointments scheduled within a day or two than they are appointments scheduled months in advance. If you have patients who frequently no-show, tell your staff to only schedule them for same-day appointments or appointments a few days out.
  16. Assess the patient’s financial situation. Sometimes patients who owe your practice money or are worried the procedure will be too expensive just won’t show up. When making the appointment, research the estimated insurance coverage so the patient knows what to expect. If the procedure is costly, let the patient know about alternate ways to pay such as monthly payments or financing.
  17. Build strong patient relationships. Patients who feel connected to your practice are less likely to let you down by not showing up. Provide personalized service and get to know your patients. Then use email newsletters and social media marketing to maintain the relationships between appointments.  Lighthouse 360 has tools you can use to create personalized newsletters and easily manage your social media presence. Check out these tips to help build strong patient relationships.
  18. Book the next appointment when the patient is checking out. The more time elapses between appointments, the more likely patients are to forget a scheduled appointment. Booking during checkout ensures patients have regular appointments so they are less likely to forget.  
  19. Make it easy for patients to contact you. Patients having a work conflict come up, or not being able to reach the office to reschedule, are two of the top three reasons for no-shows, according to a study of medical no-shows. Provide multiple ways patients can contact you if an emergency keeps them from coming in. Since most patients will call in order to make contact with a live person, help your front desk prioritize work so that they can always answer calls.
  20. Contact patients after a missed appointment. Let them know they failed to show up and whether there will be a charge for this. Since most patients will be apologetic, this is a good time to reschedule the appointment: chances are they’ll be extra-careful about not missing it a second time.  

You can’t eliminate no-shows entirely. However, Lighthouse 360’s Fill-In feature can help you turn no-show time slots into valuable production time. Cancellation Fill-In automatically detects last minute cancellations and helps you find a patient to fill the open appointment.  

 

 

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