9 Tips to Lower Patient No-Show and Cancellation Rates

It's so frustrating when a patient cancels their appointment at a dental practice at the last minute. Even worse, they may not show up at all and leave no advanced warning. Patient no-shows and cancellations are a burden because they cost your practice time and money and cause re-scheduling issues. 

Helping push more patients show up for their dental appointments takes persistance and accountability. We teach you 6 tips to reduce your patient no-show and cancellation rates. By the end of this article, you'll understand how to get more patients to show up for their appointments.


Modern Dental Office

9 Tips to Lower Patient No-Show and Cancellation Rates


1. Promote the Value Added by Your Practice's Services

Your dental practice offers care that improves the oral health and well-being of your patients. Let your patients know how their health is improved by coming to your practice on a regular basis. Highlight your dental staff, especially their technical skill, warmness, and attentiveness to patient needs. 


2. Confirm Your Patient's Next Appointment in Detail at Your Office

Dental Receptionist

It's easy for a patient to miss important information about the date and time of their next important. Before your patient leaves your office, confirm their next appointment by covering the date, time, and services that will be provided. Taking 1 minute to confirm your patient's appointment can clear up any inconsistencies and motivate a patient to show up. Online patient registration forms can handle these automatic reminders.


3. Create a Missed-Appointment Policy and Inform Your Patients

Meet with your dental staff and create a policy for patients who miss their appointments. A missed-appointment policy has consequences for patients based on their misses. For example, consider a cancellation fee for appointments canceled within 48 hours. Inform your patients about your missed-appointment policy and answer their questions to achieve mutual understanding about appointments.


4. Follow up with Patients after Their Pre-Appointment Is Set

IPad For Office use

You've booked your patient with their next appointment. That's great. But, by the time of your patient's next appointment, their schedule might have changed dramatically. Thus, it's important to follow up with patients periodically after setting their pre-appointment. You can follow the 3-3-1 strategy to follow-up with each patient at intervals of 3 weeks, 3 days, and 1 day before their next appointment. 


5. Educate Patients about the Health Effects of a Missed Appointment

Your patients may be unaware of the health effects of a missed appointment. Use your patient's time in your dental office to teach them how missing a dental appointment can cause damage to their teeth, gums, and mouth. When patients realize that they are risking their health by missing an appointment, they'll more likely to show up for their future appointments. This education reduces your patient cancellation rates.


6. Hold Front Staff Workers Accountable for Future Appointments

Accountability is critical for any dental practice to succeed. Train your front office staff to own the patient rescheduling process. After reviewing a patient's just-finished appointment and handling payment, take the initiative to ask the patient to set a new appointment. Propose an initial appointment time and work with the patient to find a time that works with their schedule.


7. Contact Your Patients through Their Preferred Communication Method

Hand Holding Smartphone

If your patient prefers appointment reminders through text message, don't blast them with reminder emails. Include a section in your patient record database that specifies their preferred communication method. Then, communicate with your patients by being respectful of their time and communication preference. This action makes your practice more personal and helps your patients feel valued.


8. Identify At-Risk Patients Who May Miss Their Appointment

Certain patients have a higher risk of missing their appointment than others. Keep this in mind to identfiy patients who seem likely to miss an appointment. At-risk patients include patients who have missed a previous appointment, are in their 20s, have been inactive at your dental practice, or are a parent or spouse making an appointment for their child or spouse. By giving extra attention, prompt communication, and education to these patients, you can lower their no-show and cancellation rates.


9. Contact Your Patients Right after a Missed Appointment

Reach out to your patients as soon as possible after missing their appointment. After all, they may have had an emergency. Also, you show concern and appreciation for your patients by contacting them right after a missed appointment. You can reach back out to the patient on a weekly basis if you're unable to get in contact with them. 


Patients miss their appointments for a variety of reasons. Let's quickly review the different methods that you can use to reduce your patient no-show and cancellation rates. 

What We Learned

Getting more patients to show up for their appointments comes down to a combination of education, consistent communication, assertiveness. By helping your patients see the benefit of coming to your practice, they are more likely to stick with their appointments.

The first step to lower patient no-show and cancellation rates is to get inactive patients to schedule an appointment. Find out how PracticeSense provides online patient registration forms with automatic appointment reminders for patient appointments.


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How have you lowered your patient no-shows and cancellations? Share your insights in the comment section below!


Topics: Patient Communication, Scheduling Tips

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