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Dental Consultants Top Tips To Reduce No Shows

Dental Consultants Top Tips To Reduce No Shows

Keeping no shows and cancels at 10% or less comes down to having having a scheduler who takes 100% responsibility for ensuring your schedule is full which includes not being too dependent on automatic reminders.

Your confirmation system should be tailored to each type of patient and have a personal touch. Anyone who contacts patients must know what they are doing and be an excellent communicator.

Role playing with a script as a basic outline of specific types of calls is highly recommended. Here is my basic re-care confirmation protocol as well as what to do for NPs, operative and cancels/no shows:

1. Education: For all the wonderful technology at our disposal a vital step in keeping no shows and cancels low is educating patients while they are in the practice on the likely negative effects, if they do not move forward, on their oral and overall health
 
2. Accountability: Assign confirmation to one employee for accountability. That employee should have excellent communication skills. The employee must have their ear "tuned" to lack of commitment phrases. 
 
3. Customize: Find out from patients how they prefer to be contacted by text, postcard, e-mail or phone call. You can also do a combination i.e. text and "courtesy call", etc. 
 
4. Schedule: The basic schedule for confirmation is 3-3-1 as follows:

a. Three weeks out is a courtesy reminder, typically by postcard, email or text. 
b. Three days out is for a “hard” confirmation typically by phone or text. If you get a "hard" confirm three days out there's not need to call or text one day out however for certain types of patients it is still advisable. See point #5. 
c. If no "hard" confirm three days out try again one day out. Note: There's really no need to do so for patients who have been responsible with their appointments in the past. Your front needs to use judgment on which patients need to the full 3-3-1.

5. Types of patients: Certain types of patients need a "hard" confirm such as:

a. Patients who have previously broken an appointment (also see point #12).
b. Patients in their 20s (older people are usually more reliable about keeping doctor appointments).
c. Patients who use Medicaid or any other government plan.
d. Patients who have not been in for some time except if they have an emergency.
e. International patients due to possible language barriers or different cultural moral codes, 
f.  Parents making an appointment for their grown child, or a spouse making an appointment for a spouse.

If you can't get a hard confirm on these types of patients consider double booking the slot. 
 
6. Short call list: Have an active short call list to help plug the holes in your schedule. 

7. Morning huddle: A short but well organized huddle can be very helpful in filling holes in the current day's schedule as well as upcoming days. 
 
8. Operative: Operative is one day before unless booked well in advance in which case it's 3-3-1.
 
9. NPs: A call from the dentist welcoming them to the practice will cut down on NP no shows.
 
10. No shows: If the patient no shows call them right away. If you do not reach the patient let them know you will try back in about a week. Repeat a week later if needed.
 
11. Overdue:

a. Call patient ASAP, one day past due.
b. If no joy, followup with two more calls over the next thirty days.
c. If still no joy, send a postcard.
d. Still no luck, a letter on office stationary. 
 
12. Chronic broken appointment patients (three broken appointments or not sorry after the second one): Dismiss them or only allow them to be on your short call list. Run a missed appointment list each day or week  so that you can indicate who should not get an appointment if they call in. 

13. Prescheduling: Patients who have shown themselves to be irresponsible with their appointments should not be prescheduled. If you still want them in your practice you can send a reminder card to call the office to schedule an appointment. 

14. Habitual lateness: Any patient that has been habitually late should be scheduled 15 minutes early. 

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What Does A Dental Consultant Do? Charge?

Many dentists will tell you dental consulting works. If dental practice management firms had no worth or benefit they could not stand up to harsh economic realities for long. What a veteran dental consultant brings to the table are systems and protocols successfully implemented in other practices that have been improved and tweaked over many years. Top dental consultants talk and network with each other. They pay attention to what works and what doesn't work across all dental practices.

Marketing & New Patients

Practice management consultants generally have little marketing training or background. 

Note: Cambridge'a consultants are Certified SEO and Ad Words Specialists

Dental Office Systems

Key systems dental consultants implement:

  1. New Patient Phone Call
  2. Insurance Processing
  3. New Patient Experience and Patient Education
  4. Financial Arrangements
  5. Scheduling
  6. Confirmation
  7. Unscheduled Treatment Followup
  8. Reactivation
  9. Huddle
  10. Stat Monitoring
  11. Daily and Weekly Checklists
  12. General Policy Manual

Your Staff

You will not get much ROI from your dental consulting if your staff do not have your back. You do not beed a team of cheer leaders jumping up and down with enthusiasm, but you do need staff who are smart and take some pride and ownership in what they do. If there is more than the usual drama in your practice that needs to be sorted out before you will get any real results.

Staff Accountability 

What gets monitored gets done.

The "big" obvious numbers are important to monitor, but when you look at them they are typically already "in the books". You want your team to concentrate and be accountable daily on the "small" stats that bring about the "big" stats. How many practice owners know how many calls were made to unscheduled patients each day or overdue re-care or inactive patients? Many dentists vastly underestimate how much daily "outflow" is needed to keep a schedule full. How may dentists know what % of slots were open in their hygiene schedule each day? How many know how many NP calls there were yesterday, who scheduled and if they end up showing up? More importantly how many staff know considering it's their job to do?

The only way to monitor what gets done is with daily stats especially for your weak areas. For example, one employee should be specifically responsible for calls to patients who are unscheduled, overdue re-care or need reactivation. Other staff can and should help in coordination with the accountable employee, but that employee accountable reports daily on a spreadsheet like this: 1. # of calls or personal texts sent 2. # of contact
3. # of appointments with name and date 4. # of arrivals

It is the employee who is either making themselves valuable to you or not. If they are doing so, dismissing them will never enter your mind. On the other hand, if they are not making themselves valuable, you will be doing them and yourself a favor by giving them the opportunity to find a practice or other employment that is a better fit for them.  

Leadership

What most practice owners are missing is not how to book an appointment but how to be effective leaders. The best systems in the world are useless if the staff do not comply. Good leaders know how to get staff to willingly follow through and comply. Agreement among all team members is key. Your written office policies should contain those agreements and should answer most questions staff come up with. Doing so will save you much time and simplify the management of your practice. Staff non compliance is a sure sign of poor leadership. The primary reason practices underperform is staff non compliance.  Key traits of leaders. All it takes is discipline: 

  1. Always keep a cool head especially when "under fire"
  2. Realize that all mistakes are an opportunity for you and your staff to learn.
  3. Set a good example.
  4. Always be learning.
  5. Take care of yourself.
  6. Fight the impulse to address multiple issue at the same time. Frantic activity creates spotty results.

Cost

$35.000.00 is the average fee for a one year program with dental practice management companies you are likely familiar with. For those companies that require you and your staff to travel to their facility or seminar you also need to add in the cost of travel, staff pay and lost production from time away from your practice. 

Questions You Should Ask

  1. Do you and/or your staff have to travel or does the consultant come to you?
  2. Is the program mostly one on one consulting versus seminars or courses with multiple clients in attendance? There are advantages to both.
  3. If the dental consulting is one on one who will actually deliver the consulting? I recommend knowing who your specific dental consultant will be prior to signing on the dotted line.
  4. Is program based on a specific dental practice management system? You want to avoid cookie-cutter programs. Ensure the program will be tailor-made to fit your practice's specific needs.
  5. The cost (including travel expenses and downtime) is certainly not the only factor, everything else being equal, it is still a major factor to consider. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little.

If you do a little homework it should be fairly easy to pick a reputable consultant that is a good fit for you and your practice.