Almost every dental office makes this one costly mistake.
Some even turn it into a back-office competition, tracking and posting the stats.
It’s the ‘pre-appoint 100% of hygiene patients’ pressure, and not only is it a sure-fire way to create chaos, but it will also cost you money in both last-minute cancellations and salary expenses.
Many dentists and administrators feel that pre-appointing is the only way to be sure they won’t “lose” patients in their system. But what about all those patients who have unreliable schedules, or don’t make oral health a priority in their planning? Every practice has enough of this group to make a significant difference.
If your system of appointment contacts has been properly set up, then you’ll never lose a patient in the system. Your hygiene coordinator should always have a pool of patients to fill an opening and never be left scrambling.
You can make pre-appointing hygiene patients profitable in your practice with only slight changes in your system, and a different approach:
- Only pre-appoint patients who are at low risk for changing their appointments. They are those with a positive history of keeping pre-appointed dates, a positive financial history in your practice and compliance with treatment diagnosed by the Dentist. Anyone with a changeable work/school schedule, poor financial history or poor compliance with diagnosed dental care are high risk to cancel their pre-appointed booking with three days or less notice. Your team will then be scrambling to fill what once appeared to be a full schedule.
- When patients hesitate to book their next hygiene appointment, don’t respond with “It’s okay if you can’t keep the appointment, we’ll call you closer and you can always change it.” You’re only giving the patient permission to change their appointment and leave you with an opening. If a patient hesitates, assure them that you’ll reach out closer to their due date and book something that will be convenient for them at that time.
- A patient communication software program which connects through email and text is an outstanding customer service. Not only will your patients respond quickly, but your administrator will spend less time leaving messages on answering machines that are never returned.
- Train your team to use the software to their advantage and make hygiene coordination a responsibility of the whole team, not just one person. Hygiene open time can be monitored and used for accountability for the administrators and hygienists alike.
- If you can’t provide a patient with their first choice of appointment time, within a week of their due date then put them on your ASAP list, creating an easily accessible pool of patients who could come in sooner than their appointed date. Stickies on the side of a monitor or a notebook do not count as an ASAP list. Use the resources in your software to create it.
If your administrators can look three weeks ahead in the schedule and easily identify the patients that will either no-show or change their appointment time, then you should be changing your system. Your team knows the current system doesn’t work, they just aren’t aware of the options.
Efficient systems will take the pressure off a stressed-out team and will consequently make your practice more money. I’d be happy to show you how to replace 100% pre-appointing with an approach that will reduce your worry and increase your practice success!