Patient No Shows

Episode 019

We all have patients that fail to show up for their appointments. In my office we refer to these patients as “no calls-no shows.”

In this episode of the Business of Dentistry podcast, I discuss why you should track patients that fail to show up for their appointments, look at the impact of those no calls-no shows on your business, and give ways to keep these productivity drains from peppering your schedule.

Patient No ShowMore About This Show

Recently I was looking at our office data on no calls-no shows: how many did we have in a month? What is the average for a dental practice? So I dug up our office data and then began searching the Internet to find out what the national average is for most dental practices.

The surprising thing is I couldn’t find a lot of information! There is plenty online about medical office no show rates, but very little about dentists. The few articles I could find seem to support an average of 10%, but even those articles didn’t have a lot of information on this number. It seems to be the accepted average from what I could gather.

With that in mind I looked at my office’s data and determined that between February 19 through March 19th we had a total of 20 no calls-no shows, or about 7.1% of our appointments didn’t call and didn’t show up.

I broke those numbers down even further: 65% of the no shows were consultations, 20% were post-ops, and 15% were surgeries. From a productivity standpoint these totaled about 10.5 hours of work – so more than a day of work wasn’t billed because people didn’t show up to their appointments.

I’m sure you can see why I did this and why do I recommend you do too: so you can find out how much these no shows-no calls are costing you and your practice. Once you’ve done that there are several ways to address this issue: the proactive approach and the reactive approach.

The proactive approach is to have your staff confirm the appointment the day before it is scheduled. Often your patients may have forgotten or may not have written down the date and time of their visit with you so confirming the day before can help them remember to come in or change the appointment. You can also use email or text messaging to remind your patients, if they would prefer that.

The reactive approach is when the person hasn’t called or shown up for their appointment and your staff calls to check in on them. You can tell them you were calling to find out what happened, and ask if they want to reschedule. They’ll give a reason or an excuse and let you know if they need to reschedule.

It’s important to follow up if they don’t call and don’t come in because you want your patients to know you care about their well-being and that it matters if they miss appointments. If you let it continue without calling and following up they may think you don’t care and it doesn’t matter.

Also on this episode I explain why I’m not a fan of charging for no call-no shows, and I share more data, this time on how many dentists fire patients after missing their appointments.

Whether you’re a general practice dentist, an oral surgeon like me or in another dental specialty, your practice is impacted by no shows and you’ll benefit from this episode. I hope after listening you’ll take action and dig into your own no show rates, and your approach to them.

Tweetable: “You want to have things in place to minimize no-shows.”

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