The Mistake of Counting on Unconfirmed Prescheduled Appointments

Posted on December 2, 2015 by Sandy Pardue


When a patient preschedules an appointment for sometime in the future (three or more months in advance), an Appointment Card is sent to them about three weeks before the appointment. Subsequently, he is called one week after the card is sent for two reasons. The first is to see if he received the card, and the second is to see if the prescheduled appointment time is convenient or if it needs to be changed. It would go something like this,

ʺMr. Gable, this is (Scheduling Secretary) from Dr. Westermanʹs office. Iʹm calling about your appointment you scheduled with us back (date). Did you get the Appointment Card we sent last week?ʺ (Pause for an answer.)

If he received it: ʺThatʹs good. Is that appointment time still good for you?ʺ If not, reschedule the patient.

If he did not receive it: ʺIt was sent to (patientʹs contact information). Is that address still correct?ʺ Verify the address. Continue with, ʺThe card/text/email we sent was to verify your appointment we scheduled for you when you were here last. If was for (date and time); is that still OK?ʺ If not, reschedule the patient.

If you cannot locate the patient at home or at work because of a move, changed phone number or other reason, you need to track them down even if you have to do a skiptrace (refer to the policy ʺSkiptracing: Locating Hard To Find Patientsʺ and the ʺSkiptrace Checklistʺ). If they are definitely not locatable, then schedule another patient in that slot. Remember though, the number one goal is to get it confirmed.

If you still canʹt find the patient after youʹve sent the card three weeks in advance and youʹve tried to call them one week after that card was sent, and youʹve made thorough efforts to find them after that, go ahead and schedule someone else in that time slot.

Occasionally there is a patient who doesnʹt want anyone to call and confirm the appointment. We honor their request and write it on the record not to call to confirm. This is a rare request but it does happen occasionally. When it does, just make sure you let them know in no uncertain terms that you have reserved (number of minutes/hours) for the appointment. If that patient ever ʺB.A.ʹs,ʺ youʹre well‐advised to insist on future confirmations.

The above scheduling policy will prevent hygienists from having non‐productive time due to unconfirmed prescheduled appointments. The cost of one broken hygiene appointment (not to mention one of the doctorʹs appointments) is enough to pay one staff memberʹs salary for an entire day.