The True Cost And Effect Of Allowing and Tolerating Dental Appointment Cancellations

Sometimes things get invented to assist us with our day-to-day tasks…

And other times you wonder what the heck we are doing wasting our time with things that could be simpler?

Computers are great, but sometimes, when you want to buy a ten cent newspaper, and you have a ten cent piece, why the heck does the newspaper need to be scanned, and processed…. Do you see where I’m coming from?

Sometimes the computer does a heck of a lot more than “just the transaction”… but at whose expense?

Why does the customer have to wait while the computer is used to perform a “back office stock control process”??

At the expense of the customer’s time?

Recently, on a dental chat forum, the following questions were posed:

“Why do people not utilize the broken/cancel list? Why do people create a second appt instead of pulling an existing one with all the exact details in it??? Others leave dozens left in the pinboard or on appt book prior to work hours. Another question: why do people not clean up the list when its dozens of pages long? Help me understand …”

This topic has been a bug-bear of mine for years…

Sometimes dental appointment book software is invented and created by someone who has never had to actually manage a dental appointment schedule…. The programme has been created to LOOK PRETTY but actually functionally, it’s a lemon…

Let me explain:

Here’s my answer to the above question:

“This question would be irrelevant if dental patients were trained to accept and keep their made appointments, and if dental team members were more diligent in making sure their patients didn’t reschedule (because they had a hairdresser appointment.)

The easy drag and drop feature is designed by a software engineer who has probably never had to reconstruct a daily schedule that fell apart due to a lazy last minute cancellation creating a domino effect.”

I went on to say:

“When I owned my dental office we had a column spare each day where cancelled appointments of that day had to be placed… sure it was extra work, but if we could prevent the caller from cancelling we would save that extra work.

Lastly, at the end of every day we could look at the cancellation column and count up how much scheduled production our office had allowed to re-book… sometimes that number…it was scary…”

I then said this:

“Dental software that creates “off page” lists can look pretty and tidy… but sometimes we (the doctor and the team) need to have a constant reminder that rescheduling appointments is a loss for the practice, it’s a loss for manpower, and it’s a loss or deferment for dental health.”

This is because ‪ALL CANCELLATIONS are the results of patients leaving the practice without clarity and certainty about their next step.

‪The dentist must be crystal clear about what the patient must do next, and when, and what will happen when they DO NOT do what the dentist says.

It is the dentist’s PRIMARY DUTY to ensure that the patient totally understands this.

Without these ingredients [what the patient must do next, and when, and what will happen when they DO NOT do what the dentist says] you will always have unnecessary cancellations…

Aren’t all cancellations unnecessary?

‪The less cancellations the better.

What this really means to your practice…

I was then asked this:

“My concern is there are so many offices available. Patients’ mindset will be… ‘well, if I am going to be “punished” I will go somewhere else…’ for a small practice with a small number of patients … what do you do: do you risk upsetting the patients with a cancellation fees or do you schedule them another appointment?

I replied:

 “If you feel that the dentistry you are offering is a commodity then you will always be worried that your patients will “just simply go elsewhere”. if you are truly offering world class service to your patients there is NO WAY THEY WILL EVER THINK OF GOING ELSEWHERE…. you need to build that relationship and live up to it..

When you truly decide to do this, I mean REALLY DO IT, then things change.

If you want to offend your patients and never ever see them again, then go ahead and FINE THEM for late cancellations and no shows… remember, people who respect you and value you will never cancel or no-show… Cancellations and no-shows are a direct reflection on the poor relationships that a practice has set up.

When you build a practice based on providing great service you can charge more and patients will still beat a path to your door… I did this in a low socio-economic area… it does work.


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