Dr Mark Hassed

If there's one thing that sends a dentist's blood pressure through the roof it's failed appointments.

You're there, the team is there, everyone is waiting and the patient doesn't show up. The overhead of the office is ticking over as usual and there is no one there to work on.

From looking at many practices I've observed that 2 criteria fairly reliably predict failed appointments. If your front desk staff watch these then you can eliminate a big percentage of failed appointments:

  1. Past history
    A leopard can't change its spots. Unreliable people often fail appointments and if anyone has failed twice before (and I don't care how genuine their excuses sounded) then they are much more likely to fail in future.
  2. Owing money
    People who owe money are dramatically more likely to fail appointments.

So, what to do.

Firstly make sure that you always enter failed appointments in the patient's record. I'd classify any appointment changed with less than 4 hours notice as a failed appointment. The excuse the patient makes is irrelevant. Unreliable people are expert at making up plausible-sounding excuses.

Then, I'd insist that, prior to making any appointment, the front desk staff check 2 things:

  • Is the patient is current with their payments?
    If not, put off booking another appointment until they are.
  • Is the patient's past record good?
    If there are 2 or more failed appointments then get a non-refundable booking deposit.

Some patients will complain and refuse to pay a booking deposit. What to do then? You can choose to take the risk or you can refuse to see the patient. Personally I'd do the latter.

Good luck with this.

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