What to Do When Patients Don’t Show – Dental Efficiency

Nothing is like walking into your dental practice and discovering that the schedule has fallen apart. The cause may be the first warm and sunny day in spring after a long winter or a new round of flu spiking in your area. Whatever the cause, broken appointments are frustrating and unavoidable.

Sometimes, it is possible to patch a productive day together using a short-notice patient list or by gleaning some work out of hygiene, and at other times, all efforts result in no significant change to the dismal prospect of a long day for no gain.

When a day’s production evaporates, and no effort to redeem it works, it is best to use the time to attend to other practice priorities. One tip for maximizing the lost time is to develop a list of neglected tasks. Keeping a to-do list can help you rebound quickly from feeling like you wasted your day. Tasks on this list may be important but not urgent in the day-to-day business operations. The tasks should be able to be accomplished quickly. They should also significantly impact keeping the practice healthy and compliant. Examples include the following:

  • Updating the medical emergency kit: Make a list of expired drugs and re-order them. Throw out expired drugs. Re-stock disposable items like band-aids and cotton swabs.
  • Update the patient list: After years of practice, the patient list is likely full of names of people who have moved away or no longer receive services at your office. Most experts agree that the active patient list should include patients seen within the last 18-24 months. Identify the people who fall outside that date range. Print some labels to mail a reminder or utilize your text and email systems to invite them back to the office for a check-up. If you know they will not be returning, use the mechanism in your office software to inactivate them.
  • Deep clean the patient spaces: Walking into an office with dust on surfaces and grime on the floor is unappealing. Insects get in and die on windowsills, and waiting room chairs scuff walls. Apply some elbow grease to the waiting room and thoroughly clean the surfaces and decorations. Don’t forget to dust off the plants and clean the windows. Cleanliness is an excellent way to show patients that your office is intentional about details.
  • Perform some training: Dentists have many compliance requirements. An empty day is a great time to indulge in some training updates. Review your radiology update requirements, perform some OSHA or HIPAA training, talk about handling sharps, and what to do if there is a conflict in the waiting room. Discuss ways to improve patient service or spend time resolving staff issues. Take time to verify that you have posted current employee posters. Whatever tasks you complete, document conversations, and have attendees sign that they were trained or informed.
  • Design a patient appreciation gift: There are always patients who are office ambassadors. Show these patients some appreciation by taking the time to design and purchase thank-you gifts for them. Everyone loves to be recognized, so show your supportive patients that you appreciate their trust in your office.
  • Plan a staff outing: Patients are not the only people who like appreciation. Your staff is the glue that holds the office together. Thank them for their service by planning a small get-together or planning a day to buy lunch for them. A cohesive office is a treasure, so show the staff you care.
  • Close early: Never underestimate the value of having a good work-life balance. If patients are willing to come in early, try to move them forward and let the staff have an early night. The gift of time is always appreciated! Staff members will enjoy your flexibility and may complain less when they are kept late on another day.

You can never eliminate broken appointments. Hopefully, the next time they happen in your office, you can use these tools to seize all of the production you can and then find other tasks to accomplish that are important to your practice’s success.