I know from experience that few things are as frustrating for dental clinic administrators as when a patient doesn’t show up for their appointment, or cancels at the last minute. Dental clinics run on efficiency, and nothing is more wasteful than having large blocks of time open up during business hours because a patient couldn’t be bothered to cancel in advance.
While it might be tempting to blame the patient for being disorganized, if you want to understand why short-notice cancellations are so common – and you want to explore strategies for reducing the number of no-shows you have to deal with – it can be helpful to put yourself in the patient’s shoes.
Numerous studies have confirmed that the average person finds going to the dentist to be an extremely stressful experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that many patients decide to back out when their appointment comes around. Instead of getting angry, it is far more productive to explore what tools are available to help patients keep their appointments, and re-book far in advance when they have a legitimate scheduling conflict.
At ABELDent we’ve built a dental practice management software platform explicitly designed to help clinics modernize the way they handle booking and patient communications. Here are three ways you can use practice management software to reduce no-shows and short-notice cancellations.
1. Software Keeps You Connected
Patients cancel appointments for many reasons, but the root problem is often a sense of disconnection. As a health care provider, it is your job to make patients feel safe and comfortable. Patients who feel cared for and valued are far more likely to follow through on their appointments, and to provide advance warning when they need to re-book.
Dental practice management software can help you cultivate this sense of connection by helping you keep detailed notes about each one of your patients, making personalized care easier and communication more fluid.
Over the years, ABELDent has helped countless dental clinics leverage the power of tools like patient reminder software to make patients feel more connected, and as our testimonials page shows, ABELDent software solutions have had a major impact on clinic success across the country.
2. Software Puts Patients in the Driver’s Seat
Making your patients feel more connected to your clinic is important, but it is perhaps even more essential to make them feel like they are in control of their own booking. If it is hard for a patient to contact your clinic to re-book an appointment, they probably won’t, and in the digital age we live in, patients may consider calling the clinic and talking with a staff member to be too much of a hassle.
If the patient decides to miss their appointment without contacting you, not only does this leave you with a gap in your schedule, it also means having to follow up with the patient and find a new time to see them.
One of the reasons patient portals are so effective is that they allow patients to control various aspects of their booking from their personal device. In addition to being able to view their health records and update personal information, most portals enable patients to view their upcoming appointments, request changes, and even cancel a visit (if you choose to provide this option).
Empowering patients to take charge of their bookings through their smartphone or computer is a great way to ensure that they provide you plenty of warning if they aren’t able to make it to an appointment.
3. Software Makes Sending Automated Reminders Easy
Sometimes, however, short-notice cancellations or missed appointments simply happen because the patient forgot they had an appointment. Given how far in advance bookings are typically made, it can be easy for patients to lose track of time and accidentally double-book themselves. Helping these patients keep their appointments is as easy as sending them an automated appointment reminder with the click of an icon.
Studies have shown that automated appointment reminder systems play an important role in reducing cancellation numbers, and are why sending reminders to patients is becoming a standard practice across the industry. Without this tool, a busy staff faced with a full schedule can result in reminders slipping through the cracks and remain unsent. Using automated appointment reminder software to make sure all patients are contacted in advance via email or text should be an important part of your communication strategy.
Given how many different things are involved in dental practice administration, it can be easy to lose site of the fact that dentistry exists for one reason: to serve patients. Last-minute cancellations are annoying, but cultivating a person-centred approach with patients when dealing with this issue can help. Effectively communicating to patients the importance of keeping their appointments or giving sufficient notice if there is a problem can be a preventative strategy to reduce missed appointments and the associated stress.
Adopting software tools that make patients feel more connected to your clinic and more in charge of their own booking is a great way to increase follow-through, and ensure that anxiety or hectic schedules are not keeping your patients from taking care of their oral health.