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Prevent Last Minute Cancellations

Your time is valuable. And few things are more frustrating than last minute cancellations that leave a big gap in your schedule.

One of the most common ways of handling cancellation offenders is to make them wait to get back into the schedule. But sometimes patients have to wait months to reschedule. Is this the best way to handle the situation?

The world of dental marketing – social media, web page user experience, blogging, etc. – is about building relationships with your current and potential patients.

Patients want a dentist they trust. They want services that are top-notch. From PPC brand awareness campaigns to social media posts and conversations, everything we talk about in these articles is designed to help your practice deliver those desired services and patient experience. Handling appointments and cancellations is no different.

Booking & Cancelling Online

Your practice may have a system that allows your patients to schedule, cancel and reschedule appointments for future dates online. This is a great service that can make filling the appointment calendar easier for both you and your patients.

Just remember to create settings that prohibit cancellations and rescheduling within 72 hours of the initial appointment. Cancellations within that 72 hour window will have to occur over the phone. I can’t stress this enough.

Last minute cancellations should always be handled with a conversation over the phone. It is a great opportunity to enhance your practice’s personal engagement and service with a smile attitude.

Keep learning about how to use new technologies to increase patient satisfaction.

Relate To Your Patients

Understanding your patients is the first step in building a long lasting relationship.

Cancellations happen for two basic reasons. One reason is an unavoidable circumstance. For instance, an illness or the boss scheduled a meeting and your patient’s job depends on being there.

Reason two tends to be a bit more flexible – something came up after making the appointment. It could be an unexpected lunch date. Or, they simply need to pick their children up from an event at the time of the appointment.

A patient may think these are unavoidable, but a couple small concessions may be all that is necessary for them to make their scheduled dental appointment.

Provide Solutions

Too often practices simply say okay and then punish the patient by making them wait for a couple months to get back on the schedule.

When the front office staff speaks with a cancellation, the first thing they should do is show concern and find out why the patient needs to cancel. Establish whether it’s an unavoidable or possibly flexible situation.

If you deem it a flexible situation, begin thinking urgency and solution. Explain what will happen to their teeth if they don’t keep the appointment while asking questions that may lead your patient to change their minds about canceling.

Always try to offer a solution. Maybe their children can carpool with friends or a spouse can pick them up. Patients won’t always make adjustments to keep their appointments, but they are more likely to if you present a solution.

Confirmation Reminders 

Send appointment reminder emails and phone calls at least seven days before the appointment. If you can do them again 72 hours before that would be great. Try using text messages for the second reminder.

It is important that these messages don’t offer a way to cancel. When we say things, like “if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment call…” patients are no longer thinking about keeping their appointment, but rather how to cancel it.

Confirmation emails and phone calls should simply say we are looking forward to seeing you on a specific day at a specific time. This approach leaves patients thinking about making their appointments, not canceling them.

Learn more about the benefits of automated patient communications.

Reward Good Behavior

One thing that has been proven in behavioral studies is that positive reinforcement modifies behavior better than negative reinforcement. Obviously, if you have a patient that is habitually late to appointments or has multiple last minute cancelations you have to do something to dissuade them from doing it again.

As we previously said this leads to a long wait to get back on the dental schedule. But what about a positive reinforcement campaign?

A gift card giveaway might be just the thing. Using Facebook and other social media outlets your practice can highlight how valuable everyone’s time is during the busy holiday months. Then when patients are on time for scheduled appointments put their name in for a giveaway.

How do you typically handle appointment cancellations? Leave your comments and feedback below!

Keep learning more secrets about how to avoid last minute cancellations and, download the free whitepaper, Automated Dental Patient Communication: How to Keep more Patients with Less Work by filling out the form below.

Practice Marketing

It’s Summertime and Patient Communication Is… Easy?

Ahh, summer – days that seem to stretch on forever, relaxed work hours, impromptu BBQs and trips to the beach. For every one of your patients breathing deeply and digging their toes into the sand, there’s another one (or three) balancing camp drop-off and pick-up times, carpool schedules, and trying to fit in as much family fun as possible, all while secretly counting down the days until school starts again.

Whether you’re competing with last-minute vacations or over-booked schedules, summer can be a tough time to keep your dental chair occupied. Before you hang a “Gone Fishing” sign on the practice door, pour yourself a large iced tea and read on to learn how an effective automated recall system can help you reach your patients during the dog days of summer.

Last minute cancellations and no-shows are gray clouds in a full schedule’s sunny sky. Whether they’re juggling swim lessons and tennis camp or enjoying a spontaneous mid-week getaway, chances are your patients’ schedules look a lot different than they did six months ago when they booked their teeth cleaning. Dental appointment reminders are critical to full books any time of year, but good luck getting patients to answer the phone when they’re chauffeuring the soccer team or relaxing by the pool.

Automated email and dental text reminders are the first line of defense against holes in your summer schedule. Not only do automated messages save your front desk team time, but patients are much more likely to respond to a text or email than take a call (FYI – this is just as true in January as it is in July). A patient recall system with two-way text messaging allows patients to conveniently confirm their appointment directly from their smartphone. Plus, it’s non-invasive – so you don’t run the risk of interrupting them mid-way through that sizzling summer novel.

Ok, your automated reminders went out but apparently, Bob is already on his way to the beach. How can you quickly fill his slot? Group text messaging allows the front desk team to easily reach out to patients who have asked to be notified of earlier openings. This feature saves time by messaging several patients at once, increasing the likelihood that Bob’s vacant slot is filled before his feet even hit the sand.

Since summer means fewer commitments for some, it can also be a prime opportunity to re-engage patients who may have let appointments lapse earlier in the year. Automated communication systems take the hassle out of patient recare by sending overdue treatment reminders at pre-defined intervals. To ensure no one falls through the cracks because of a change in phone number or mailing address, be sure to use a system that employs multiple outreach methods (i.e. dental postcards, phone calls, email and text message).

Finally, what June and July lack in terms of hygiene production is often made up in August with the back-to-school push. This is when parents take stock of everything that needs to get done before their little angels head back to school. Sports physicals and dental visits suddenly take precedence over lemonade stands and pick-up basketball games. Your schedule fills up and family messaging comes in handy. The family messaging feature consolidates reminders, so families bringing multiple patients to one visit receive a single message instead of a reminder for each individual. Not only does this feature keep your dental practice current with technology, you also get bonus points for providing a streamlined patient experience!

At the end of the day, summer is fleeting. So, enjoy it –  find an automated recall system that works for your dental practice and relax knowing you’re bases are covered. Reach out to an Internet Marketing Advisor at 888-932-3644 to discuss your specific practice needs and potential ways that our patient communication solutions from PracticeMojo can help.

Patient Relationship

The Top 5 Reasons Dentists Don’t Need an Effective Recare System

Maybe it’s our penchant for mid-afternoon lattes or the hilarious monologues we can’t seem to get enough of, but we’ve recently been watching our fair share of late-night television. This got us thinking about why dentists might not want or need an effective automated recare system.

Listed below for your reading pleasure, are the top five reasons dentists aren’t interested in automating patient communications:

Reason #5 – The best use of my staff’s time is making phone calls.
For dental practices that don’t use automated patient communications, the task of reaching out to patients for general recall and reminders becomes part of the front desk team’s never-ending to-do list. And, every moment your team spends making phone call reminders is time that could be spent focused on other priorities such as patient billing, claims management, medical charts, and of course patients in your waiting room. On average, dentists save approximately one week’s worth of work with automated recall and reminder software – what could your team do with that time?

Reason #4 – Lost revenue is my “thing.”
An effective automated recare system helps dental practices keep more revenue – bottom line (pun intended). The right system reduces no-shows with timely appointment reminders sent via patients’ preferred communication method (i.e. text, email, phone, or postcard), and reactivates dormant patients with targeted outreach campaigns. The result? An increase in the percent of active patients, which translates to more revenue for your practice.  But hey, if lost revenue is your “thing” we won’t judge (ok, maybe just a little).

Reason # 3 – Empty chairs make me smile.
Last-minute cancellations can wreak havoc on the busiest of schedules. One minute your hygienists are hoping to fit in a 15-minute lunch, and the next they’re re-counting the toothbrush supply for the fifth time. While cancellations are par for the course, an automated recare system can greatly reduce the impact to your practice. Recare systems with a group text feature allow your team to quickly notify ASAP list patients of unexpected openings, which helps to fill last-minute holes in the schedule.

Reason # 2 – Accommodating patients isn’t a priority.
In a recent Hanover Research study, 80% of patients said they preferred text or email reminders over calls. Contacting patients via their preferred communication method is an effortless way to accommodate their needs. It also reinforces your practice’s high-tech image and reduces no-shows.

Reason #1 – We’re ok with patients slipping through the cracks.
Whether it’s an automated recare system with limited outreach methods or a distracted front desk staff, chances are you’re not reaching 100% of your patients. If you’re comfortable rolling the dice on which patients receive regular communications and which don’t then feel free to skip ahead. On the other hand, if you understand the importance of consistent patient communication in keeping your practice top-of-mind and strengthening patient relationships, ensure your recare system checks all the boxes. This means email and text options, as well as automated phone calls for patients without a mobile number or email address on file. And, don’t forget dental postcard marketing options for those patients who prefer a hard copy reminder (direct mail is also a great way to send birthday and holiday greetings).

In summary, the only dental practices that actually need an automated recare system are those that want to increase team productivity, revenue generation and/ or patient satisfaction. Still not sure if your practice needs a new recare system? Check out our latest white paper, Ineffective Recare: The Black Hole of Recurring Revenues for tips on how to determine if an automated recare system is right for your practice.

Still have questions? Reach out to an Internet Marketing Advisor at 888-932-3644. Our team of dental marketing experts is happy to discuss your practice needs and potential ways PracticeMojo, ProSites’ automated patient communication solution, can help you meet your goals.

Practice Marketing

6 Ways Dental Practices Can Stand Out in a Cluttered Inbox

Chances are your dental practice communicates with some – if not the majority of – patients via email. Whether it’s appointment reminders, post-visit recaps, or a simple follow-up note – standing out in a cluttered email inbox is key to communicating with patients effectively.

Seeing that the average person receives over 120 emails a day, your message has a lot of competition. Use these tips below to ensure patients take notice to your dental practice’s emails:

  1. Make your subject line count. If your subject line doesn’t make sense or doesn’t catch attention, it could easily be deleted. Or worse, marked as SPAM and never seen. Make sure your subject lines are personable, concise, and accurate to what is included in the body of the email.

Subject lines work best when you keep it under 50 characters and avoid words like “FREE” so you aren’t marked as SPAM.

– Try sending emails at odd times. With “inbox zero” being the new goal, sometimes people will ignore an email truly because they are just too busy to ready yours. By sending an email at night or during the weekend, this may catch a patient’s attention. Test different email send days and times and track to see which has best response rates.

  1. Choose your words carefully. Content is everywhere, and people don’t have time to read everything that lands n their inbox. People are constantly rushing and need a concise email. There’s definitely a need for personality and a lot of need-to-know information but try to keep emails under 100 words and link out to other important information if they must find out more.
  1. Make the call-to-action clear. Make sure your email starts and ends with what you want your readers to do. Do you need them to complete a form and send it back? Do you want them to schedule a meeting with your firm? Whatever the action item is, make sure it’s clear and simply stated. Most people don’t read the full email – they skim the text – so ensure your call-to-action stands out from the body of the text by using a button or bold text to set it apart.
  1. Be mobile-friendly. Over half of all emails are read on a mobile device. Make sure your HTML emails are optimized for a mobile viewing experience, to ensure that patients don’t need to pinch and zoom to simply read your email. Otherwise, you chance being ignored or deleted.
  1. AB Test and measure success. Learn about your audience by testing the message, send times, calls-to-action, and subject lines. Make sure to define what you are testing and what success looks like so you can successfully track your efforts and make smarter marketing decisions for your practice.

Email marketing is here to stay – so it’s important that your dental practice utilizes this medium effectively. Find out how ProSites can help you stand out in a cluttered inbox with automated patient communication email reminders via PracticeMojo. Call (888) 932-3644 to learn more.

Practice Marketing

How to Reduce Dental Patient No-Shows by 41%

A missed or cancelled appointment is like a dagger – not to your heart – but to your billing. Across a variety of healthcare fields, the cost of a missed appointment can range from $50 to over $1,000.  And combined, no-shows cost the US healthcare system more than $150 billion a year.

As a practitioner, it’s a three-fold loss.

For one, you can’t get the time or money back.

Also, patients who would have otherwise showed up, get unnecessarily bumped to a later slot.

And you’re still on the hook for all of your fixed costs like electricity, rent and staffing expenses.

While you probably can afford to absorb a few missed appointments, some practices have no-show rates over 25%. It’s inevitable that some appointments will go unfilled, but bringing down the rate of your no-show appointments is one of the fastest ways to raise profitability across the board.

We’ve compiled three steps that can help your practice minimize the number of missed appointments you have to deal with:

1.       Make an appointment reminder call.

If you do nothing else, instituting a reliable system to remind your patients of upcoming appointments can have a big impact – so don’t skip this step.

How big of an impact?

A study by the American Journal of Medicine found the normal no-show rate of 23% dropped to 17% for those patients who received an automated appointment reminder, and fell further to 13% when patients received a personal call from a practice staff member. That’s a 41% drop in no-shows, or 10 fewer no shows per 100 appointments (!), which could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in saved revenue.

You can also email and text your patients to remind them the day of the appointment to ensure a complete communication strategy. If you choose an automated reminder solution, make sure it includes a way for patients to let you know if they can’t make the appointment.

2.       Institute and stick to a well-communicated cancellation policy.

Communicate your cancellation policy to patients, and tell them exactly how to cancel . You should give them as many reasonable options on how they can contact you to do so as possible – whether that’s by phone, email, text or via an online calendar. Information on cancellation should be on every appointment reminder card, bill, and communication you send or give your patient online or in person.

If the shoe were on the other foot, and you inevitably need to cancel or reschedule an appointment, be sure to follow your own rules as well. It’s only fair to hold your patients to the same standard that you also practice. For example, if you have a 48 hour cancellation policy, hold yourself to it.

When a patient does follow your cancellation policy and gives you the notice you require, be sure to thank them– it’s an opportunity to remind them of how much you appreciate the courtesy of cancelling in a timely fashion.

3.       Know when to walk away.

Patients who habitually miss appointments or show up late can cost you more money than they’re worth. Your practice is a place of business, and in business terms, you need to cut your loss leaders and focus on your profit centers. No-shows constrain your ability to help people who truly need it.

The tricky part is knowing under what circumstances you should fire a patient. For some fields of practice, it’s not always possible to terminate a patient immediately. If the patient is in acute distress, or in the middle of treatment or otherwise compromised medically, you may have to wait until they’re healthy to terminate. But if the patient is stable and not in need of immediate care, then a no-show patient is usually safe to let go. Always follow the rules and regulations of your field and double check to make sure you can actually terminate a patient before you do so.

Just as with your cancellation policy, you should come up with a termination policy. Let new patients know about your policy and strictly enforce it. Some doctors have a 3-strikes and you’re out policy. Some have a 1 strike and you’re out rule. Whichever policy you choose, if it comes time to terminate a patient, make sure you do so in a professional manner. Either you or your office manager should call them to break the news, and then send a follow up letter via first class mail reminding them of your policy and their missed appointments. In the letter include a list of other doctors you recommend they take their business to. Urge them to call your office for clarification or assistance in finding a new doctor.

Doctors sometimes charge patients for missed appointments or put them on a probationary period where they have to pay for appointments up front. Use these punitive measures carefully. Patients who habitually miss appointments aren’t likely to cave to monetary punishments. What’s the message you’re trying to send? Is it worth creating a variety of new billing paperwork and scheduling policies to accommodate irresponsible patients?

Your efforts will likely be better spent bringing in patients who will keep their appointments than chasing down no-shows.

It’s a testament to the healthcare profession that the no-show rate is as high as it is for so many doctors. People take advantage of the helping-field and think they can always re-schedule. This type of truancy is really unacceptable in any field, and it’s worth taking the steps to let your patients know the value of your time. Doing so will increase your profitability and let you focus on helping patients who can be bothered to show up.

Have any tips for decreasing no-shows? Leave them in the comments field below!

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