| Journal of the Arizona Dental Association, June-July 2013
It would be easier to turn the other cheek and say,
“Oh, why bother even addressing the issue?” Then
again, you may feel it is best to just charge them a
failed appointment fee—maybe then they’ll think
twice about not showing up. In either case, without
an in-depth knowledge of a practice’s scheduling and
appointment making systems, its team, and overall
practice operations, it would be difficult to provide a
blanket solution on how to address this issue. Practic-
es differ greatly from one to another, and recommen-
dations for one practice may not work for another.
Unfortunately, patients cancel their appointments, but
through enhanced systems development and team
training, kept appointments will increase and failed or
cancelled appointments will decline.
Frustration from dental professionals is understand-
able, especially when demand for dental services today
is less during these slower economic times. In addi-
tion, generating new patients is harder now, forcing
dentists to revisit their marketing efforts and to hone
communication skills and enhance patient services.
I do not recommend scheduling appointments for two
patients at the same time, or “double booking.”
A patient who has failed appointments in the past may
surprise you and show up for their appointment, along
with the other patient you double booked. When that
happens, whose appointment will you honor? Occa-
sionally, the double booking gamble may pay off, and
only one patient will show up for their appointment.
However, if both show up at the same time, you lose
that gamble, and you may end up losing a patient (or
both) as a result.
Solving the issue of cancellations begins with good
systems and people working together as a team. Ad-
ditionally, refining the case presentation and appoint-
ment scheduling process so patients make treatment
appointments times they know they will keep.
Resist the temptation of establishing a policy of
charging for failed or broken appointments. The
policy may be orchestrated by people in the office in
ways that might backfire. And, charging for broken
appointments is a great way to give patients a reason
to look for another dentist.
Practice Pointers
Our office experiences from
one to five cancellations a day,
along with a missed appoint-
ment or two. We’ve unsuccessfully
tried several strategies to get patients
to keep their appointments, and I’m
reluctant to charge patients for not
showing up. What do you suggest?
Shouldyour practice penalize
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