March 11, 2012
When are dental professionals going to start treating their patients like mature adults who take responsibility for showing up for appointments ? Are the appointments being made with children? Confirmation overload is actually creating an opportunity for your patients to cancel, so it is having the reverse effect. Think about it, you are really telling your patient that you don’t trust them to keep their appointment and you are certain that they are going to cancel. Do medical offices pre-confirm appointments, confirm and re-confirm to make really, really sure the patients show up? The answer is no! They expect their patients to value the appointment and show up at the right time. I know that you may be thinking, “but what if the patient doesn’t show up?” It is the fear of no shows and short notice cancellations that can drive you crazy, but you should not drive your patients crazy in return. You create the habits and expectations of your patients, so start treating them like adults and expect them to attend their scheduled appointments. This will even work for appointments that are scheduled six months in advance, if it is done correctly.
When you make the appointment, ask the patient if he/she would like a courtesy call. If the patient says ‘yes’, then call the patient either one week or two business days (not 48 hours) prior to the appointment, and say, “This is Sandie calling from Dr. Smith’s office. This is your courtesy call that you requested. We are looking forward to seeing on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 10:20. Have a great day.” Do not say “I’m JUST calling to confirm or remind you about your scheduled appointment.” As soon as you say the word “just” you have minimized the value of anything else that you are going to say. It’s not important for the patient to listen. Also, if you say the word “confirm” you are indicating that the appointment was not “firm” in the first place. If you “remind” the patient about their appointment, you are expecting them to forget.
The average office wastes a minimum of $12,000.00 per year in administrative human resources costs simply by making confirmation calls. Start treating your patients as responsible, mature adults who intend to keep their commitments. Empower your patients to value their oral health and valuing your time, as you value theirs. Create the expectation that your patients will take personal responsibility for their own health. Trust your patients to show up for appointments and don’t expose them to confirmation overload.Sandie Baillargeon is a leading authority on how to increase the effectiveness of medical and dental business systems. Ms. Baillargeon is author of two text books, Dental Office Administration and The Canadian Dental Office Administrator, published by ITP Nelson Canada. Sandie is the owner and operator of Dental Office Consulting Services, which specializes in dental business planning, staff development, consulting and continuing education seminars. Visit her website at www.dentalofficeconsulting.com or contact her directly at (905) 336-7624.