Almost every dental office makes this one mistake. They put pressure on their team to pre-appoint 100% of their hygiene patients, some offices even track and post this statistic in their back office for all to see and make it a competition. There is just one problem with this, it is a sure way to create chaos with last minute cancellations for your patients who have unreliable schedules or who don’t make their oral health a priority in their schedules. Pre-appointing 100% of your hygiene patients will cost you money in both last minute cancellations and salary expenses.
Many dentists and administrators feel that pre-appointing hygiene patients is the only way that they won’t “lose” patients in their system. If your system of appointment contacts has been correctly set up in your office, you will 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.
- Only pre-appoint patients who are at low risk for changing their appointments. They must have a positive history of keeping pre-appointed dates, a positive financial history in your practice and compliance with treatment diagnosed by the Dentist. Anyone who has a changeable work/school schedule, poor financial history or poor compliance with diagnosed dental care are high risk to cancel their pre-appointed appointment with three days or less notice. Your team will then be scrambling to fill what appeared to be a full schedule.
- When patients hesitate to book their next hygiene appointment, it doesn’t make sense to say to them, “It’s okay if you can’t keep the appointment, we will call you closer and you can always change it.” You are giving the patient permission to change their appointment and leave you with an opening. If a patient hesitates, then they should be assured that you will contact them closer to their due date and book something that will be convenient for them at that time.
- The use of a patient communication software program for connecting with patients through email and text is an outstanding customer service. Your patients will respond quickly and with less administrator time spent 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 aren’t able to provide a patient with their first choice of appointment time, within a week of their due date then put them on your ASAP list so that you are 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 you ask your administrators to look three weeks ahead in the schedule and they are easily able to point out the patients that will either no show or change their appointment time, then you should be changing your system. Your team knows the system doesn’t work but they don’t know any other options. Provide them with options and your team will feel more efficient. Efficient systems will make your team feel less stressed and will consequently make your practice more money. I am happy to be the one to guide you to more efficient systems.