Patient Cancellations: How to Decrease No-Shows in Your Dental Practice

Get to the root cause of patient cancellations and decrease no-shows in your dental practice. Improving patient communication is a good first step.

Patient cancellations and no-shows cost your dental practice financially, disrupt schedules, and have a significant impact on the entire dental practice team.

Decreasing patient cancellations and no-shows is vital for your dental practice growth.

It takes a lot of time and effort for the entire dental practice team to prepare for one patient appointment. On any normal day, you might be attending a morning meeting with the dental staff, planning the whole day around scheduled appointments, getting ready for procedures, and prepping the treatment room.

Then the patient doesn’t show up for their scheduled appointment.

No-shows have an enormous effect on every team member; the dentist, dental assistant, hygienist, and even the dental technician. The more in-depth the treatment scheduled is, the more significant the disruption can be.

Consider the time taken to set up the exam room with the specific instruments and equipment needed for a particular patient, as well as wasted materials. What’s more, that opening could have gone to a patient who was in greater need, so a lost appointment hurts more than just the one no-show for the dental practice.

While the occasional no-show is unavoidable, there are also steps you can take to decrease patient cancellations and no-shows. The secret is to understand why patient cancellations happen in the first place and you can implement some front desk best practices.

Here are some common reasons for patient cancellations, along with the most useful strategies for preventing them.

Patients Don't Understand the Treatment

decrease patient no-shows

Sometimes appointment reminders aren’t enough. Lack of awareness and proper understanding of dental treatments and procedures is one of the top causes of patient no-shows or missed appointments.

When you’re booking a patient for a procedure, it’s essential they understand what the treatment involves and its significance to their future dental health. Securing patient buy-in is crucial, be it for a simple filling, a root canal, or a crown.

Education is extremely important. It’s a good practice to share oral health information and images, or chat about a specific upcoming treatment, while your patient’s still in the dentist’s chair. Another tip is to include educational material with appointment reminder emails.

Bear in mind that some patients might find it more difficult than others to understand the information communicated by a dental professional. It may be helpful to explain the treatment using simple language aided by illustrations and diagrams. In certain cases, money might be an obstacle. This is another issue that’s best discussed beforehand, perhaps along with payment plan options.

Patients Experience Long Waiting Times

Reducing time spent in a waiting room plays a big role in increasing patient satisfaction, and helps to minimize patient cancellations too.

If patients frequently have to wait a long time before they’re seen, they’ll be less likely to make and keep their next appointment. In fact, it’s a sure-fire way to send them looking for a new dentist!

The 9th Annual Vitals Index found 84% of patients considered the amount of time spent in the waiting room either “somewhat important” or “very important” to their overall experience. Further, one in five patients decided to look for a new healthcare provider as a result of lengthy delays. The survey also established a correlation between time spent waiting and a doctor’s average rating, with the lowest-rated having the longest average waiting time.

Hardly surprising, since patients regard this wasted time as part of the total healthcare service, leading to a negative perception about the care they’ve received.

On the other hand, it’s been argued that prolonged delays are just a byproduct of practice management, scheduling, and organization problems. The net result is a dental practice that’s seen as unprofessional, disorganized, poorly managed, and simply not respectful of their patient's time.

When a longer-than-usual wait can’t be avoided, there are a few dental office communication strategies that could help to alleviate patient frustration and boredom. Most importantly, let your patient know from the start approximately how long the wait will be, giving them updates at regular intervals. Have a TV in the waiting area and provide complimentary Wi-Fi.

That’s why it’s critical to optimize your dental practice operations with professional dental marketing software and online scheduling tools, such as those provided by RevenueWell.

No Policy in Place for Patient Cancellations

dental patient cancellations

A dental practice with a transparent and well-defined cancellation policy is less likely to experience last-minute cancellations and at the same time decrease patient no-shows.

Communicate clearly with your patients and be upfront about policy parameters. For instance, you could specify that patients are permitted to cancel up to 48 hours before their appointment, after which a penalty fee for patient cancellations will apply.

Ensure that the policy for patient cancellations is relayed verbally and in writing. Highlight it on your dental website and in all correspondence, including appointment reminder emails and text messages. You could even ask patients to accept the terms of the policy for patient cancellations as part of completing the appointment booking process.

Some dentists aren’t in favor of a patient cancellations policy as they feel it may turn patients away for fear of the cancellation fee. On the contrary, a clear-cut policy is more liable to highlight how professional your practice is. And when people book an appointment, they’ll be fully aware they are making a firm commitment, and likewise more prepared to accept accountability if they do no-show or cancel after the pre-determined allotted time period.

A dental office might even ask for a deposit prior to booking an appointment, especially if it’s for a major dental treatment or procedure. This is a guaranteed way of discovering well in advance the patient’s level of commitment.

You might try appealing to their conscience. Remind them that a no-show is not only problematic for your dental practice operations, it also disadvantages other patients who might be on a waiting list for an urgent appointment.

Suggest patients download the RevenueWell dental office app so they’re able, amongst other things, to quickly view and be reminded of their appointments.

RevenueWell Offers Prime Solutions to Decrease Patient Cancellations

One of the root causes of patient cancellations or missed appointments is often simply a lack of effective communication.

RevenueWell’s all-in-one patient communication management system lets you send intelligent, automated appointment reminders and confirmations to the right person at the right time.

RevenueWell Messenger allows dental staff to send texts and respond in real-time right from their computer. It’s super easy to use and your dental office team and patients will love it. With 100+ powerful features, RevenueWell Phone can be customized to best suit the front desk team and daily dental practice operations. Your new cloud-based VoIP system integrates phone, two-way text, fax, email, and even video conferencing, and ties it all back to your existing dental practice number. Plus, the RevenueWell mobile app lets you manage your practice phone from anywhere.

Connections are seamless, communication channels optimized, and schedules fine-tuned. The result? Significant reductions in patient cancellations. Don’t let another no-show disrupt your day.

Schedule a demo today and discover how RevenueWell can take your practice management and patient communication systems to the next level.