Unfilled appointments caused by last-minute cancellations can be costly. Have a plan in place to handle these situations.

Do you find that you have problems in your office with patients cancelling their appointments at the last minute or not showing up at all? Unfilled appointments caused by cancellations can be very costly for your practice. Here are some tips to help you reduce cancellations and no-shows in your office.

Put Policies in Place

First, it’s important to have a firm office policy regarding cancellations. Start by letting new patients know your expectations when they do need to cancel an appointment. There will be times when patients may have to cancel or reschedule appointments due to illness or conflicts with their schedule. Let them know up front that you expect at least 24 hours’ notice if they need to change their appointment. I recommend having a written office policy regarding cancellations included in your new patient forms and have the patient sign that they have read and understand it. If you plan to charge patients a missed appointment fee, it’s important to include that information in the policy so they are aware of the consequences of canceling last minute.

Breaking Appointments

When patients do cancel appointments, it’s important to handle those cancellations appropriately in Dentrix so your records are accurate. When an appointment is broken in the Dentrix Appointment Book, they are counted as missed appointments in the patient’s Family File. This should be used for negative missed appointment situations, such as if a patient does not provide you with adequate notice for a cancellation or if they simply don’t show up for an appointment. When you break an appointment in Dentrix, those appointments will be moved from the Appointment Book to the Unscheduled List and grouped under Broken in the list.

Using Wait/Will Call

Alternatively, if a patient cancels an appointment but provides you with adequate notice, it’s best to use the Wait/Will Call option within the Appointment Information window, such as if a patient calls about their appointment scheduled next week and they aren’t able to reschedule right away.

When you mark an appointment as Wait/Will Call, it does not count as a missed appointment in the patient’s Family File. These appointments will be moved from the Appointment Book to the Unscheduled List and grouped under W/Call in the list.

Because of the Broken and W/Call groupings within the Unscheduled List, you can easily differentiate which appointments were cancelled last minute and which appointments were canceled with reasonable notice on the Unscheduled List. This is helpful to know when you’re contacting patients to reschedule.

Reschedule Appointments Using Dentrix Lists

When you do have a cancellation, it’s important to try to fill that appointment as quickly as possibly to avoid having unfilled appointment time. You can use the Unscheduled List to contact patients who previously cancelled an appointment and see if they would like to reschedule and would be willing to come in and fill the cancellation. To help with that effort, another valuable tool to use is the ASAP list.

Any time you are scheduling an appointment, ask the patient if they would be willing to come in sooner, should you have a cancellation before their scheduled appointment time. If so, add them to the ASAP list so you always have a list of patients you can use to fill last-minute cancellations.

Evaluate Unfilled Hours

And finally, to evaluate missed appointments and unfilled hours in your practice, you can use the Practice Advisor Report. This report will show you how many broken appointments your office had in a month that were not re-appointed, dentist’s unfilled hours, hygienist’s unfilled hours, and the value of those unfilled hours so you can see the revenue that was lost due to those unfilled hours. You can also include the unfilled hours and value for individual providers. I suggest evaluating this data on a monthly basis to determine the success of your office policy regarding cancellations and your team’s ability to fill last-minute cancellations.

Learn More

For additional information, read the following:

    By Charlotte Skaggs
    Certified Dentrix Trainer and The Dentrix Office Manager columnist

    Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for over 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at [email protected].