Actions & Words of the Team May Make Patients Think Cancellations are Normal, Part 2

Posted on May 1, 2013 by Sandy Pardue


As we evaluate broken appointments and track down exactly what was done prior to the appointment day, what was said and what was left off, we see that many of the broken appointments should have never occurred. Most could have been prevented if the practice had only exercised more internal control.

When we look at the different procedures that are the most common for broken appointments, we see that prescheduled hygiene, surgeries, root canals and SRP’s result in more broken appointments than other procedures.

When we look further at the actions of individual practices, we see that when clinical teams spend more time educating in the chair, before the appointment is made, the treatment plan acceptance is actually higher and the patients are more apt to schedule and keep their appointment.

Clinical teams and what they communicate to the patients are very key in this whole cycle of the broken appointments. Getting patients to show up for appointments starts with reinforcing the diagnosis chairside. Educate the patients about their condition. Most of you probably feel like you are already doing this. I am asking you to go one step further. Tell them what will happen if they put it off.

Don’t assume the patients already know that the problem they are having is going to get worse and that they know it’s going to cost more if they put off the treatment. They must be told that it will get more expensive; tell them they may start having pain. Let them know it will not get any better on its own. This is what they will understand. You need to get their attention. It needs to be documented that they were told.

Say things like, “It is going to get worse and you will have some pain if we don’t get you back soon” or “That cavity is going to get bigger and cost more if you put if off.” Patients have to see the benefits before they will want it bad enough to find the money and keep the appointment; they have to see how it will benefit THEM.

If your clinical team is not stressing the importance of the next visit to the patient while they are in the chair, you probably have many more broken appointments than you should. This includes hygiene and preappointing six months in advance. The hygienist has to encourage the patient to return and to stay on schedule. She has to stress the importance and she has to add value.

Every team member is responsible for making sure that patients are educated on their needed treatment and their questions have been answered. Make sure you let them know you are counting on them to be there for their appointment.