Tips for Keeping your Schedule Full

One of the greatest sources of frustration in every office is when your schedule falls apart even though your team set you up for a “perfect” day. Your team members may have followed every scheduling rule you have in your office and then you get four calls for same day or next day cancellations. Your team then struggles to fill the day and what looked like a great day has left everyone frustrated.

You can’t control patients’ behaviour, no matter how many rules you have in place but you can create solutions for you team to perhaps cut down on some patients not respecting their appointments.

Here are some solutions:

  1. When patients are scheduled by the hygienists in the treatment room they are far more likely to keep their appointments. Who really wants to upset their hygienist? Patients usually have a bond with a hygienist that will keep them more faithful to their appointments.
  • Keep social notes from the last appointment in the computer, patients are really impressed when you remember that the last time they were in the office they were “having a problem with racoons in their attic” or some other inconsequential piece of information. There is value attached to an appointment when the patient doesn’t feel that they are in a just another faceless person in your office.
  • Classify your patients in some way. My favourite way to sort patients is always high-risk patients or low-risk patients. If you look ahead in your schedule and know in advance who is going to cancel/change their appointment because they have a history of doing so, then you know you need change. High- risk patients are patients who have very variable schedule, change or cancel their appointments frequently, may have a poor financial history and aren’t compliant with Dr. diagnosis. High- risk patients should never be pre-appointed. These are the patients who you want to book with a week or less notice as they will be more reliable that way. Low-risk patients have stable schedules, rarely change their appointments, have positive financial history’s and are compliant with all Dr. diagnosis. Low-risk patients are the only patients you should pre-appoint.  Always ensure that you use a method of denoting your patient classification in your software so that it can’t be decoded by a patient glancing at a computer screen.
  • Review how cancellation calls are taken in your office. Cancellations shouldn’t be accepted via text or answering machine. It’s too easy to cancel when you feel that you are doing it electronically. If a patient presents an obstacle for attending an appointment, the administrator should have some verbiage available to help them see the value of their appointment or provide a solution for them. Unfortunately, COVID has given many patients the opportunity to cancel recently, and there isn’t much the administrator can say when that is the excuse being given for the cancellation.
  • When confirming patients who have pre-appointed you may want to follow the 2/2/2 rule. You can confirm your patients two weeks prior to their appointment, remind them again two days before their appointment and then ask if they would like a reminder 2 hours before their appointment.
  • Many offices have a rule in place to charge patients for same day cancellations. This rule may be used as a threat but shouldn’t ever be charged unless you want to have a patient leave the office. As a threat, it is rather effective “We have a same day cancellation charge of $75, we would hate to charge that to your account, is there any way that could be avoided by you attending your appointment?”

The schedule in your office is one of the most important aspects of your life, a well-controlled schedule allows a practice to run smoothly and decreases stress. A good day at the office allows everyone to go home in a better mood and enjoy the rest of their day.

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