Patients failing to attend their appointments can be one of the most frustrating parts of running a dental practice, especially when you may have turned others away due to being fully booked. Not to mention, that unattended appointments can impact your bottom line.
Therefore, finding a way to reduce the number of Failed to Attends (FTAs) is worthwhile to ease practice management and keep you on track financially. Often the key to this is effective communication – telling your patients your policies and procedures in a timely manner.
One thing that can be worthwhile discussing with the patient, either while they are in their previous appointment or while they are booking their next one, is the affect that people not turning up has on the practice. This doesn’t have to be delivered as a stern lecture, but just part of a friendly conversation. Something along the lines of, ‘Please give at least 24 hours’ notice if you need to cancel your appointment so we can give your appointment to another patient if it becomes inconvenient for you’.
Some patients may well simply not realise the consequences of not showing up. Keeping them informed along the way may help them to understand how important that appointment is to the practice and another patient.
Having a reminder system in place is also a vital part of your communications. Reminding your patients, a day or two before the appointment can jog their memory if they’ve double-booked themselves. Of course, this should be done in the patients’ preferred method of communication.
A simple text message can suffice. You can have your policy transferred to any reminder text/email you send out to help reinforce the message, or for a more personal approach call your patients to ensure they are still happy to proceed, know where to park and what to bring along to their appointment. If they need to change their appointment this service can often be the easiest to ensure rebooking at the most convenient time is secured, which can reduce failed appointments straight away.
A full policy can be stored in your patient handbook on hand for patients to view whilst in the waiting area.
Alongside communicating your failed appointment policy well, it can also be worth considering doing an audit of your appointments. Following this, you could put a poster in the waiting area that highlights the amount of failed appointments you have had in the past week.
Checking if there are peak times when patients fail more regularly, or if it’s for a particular treatment, means you can note any kind of pattern which can help you to find the right solution. Alternatively, seeking feedback from your patients about your current opening hours might also help to change the pattern of failed appointments.
If your practice is suffering from too many failed appointments, step back and think about whether you are doing all you can to help reduce them. Take a fresh look and consider your approach. It could make all the difference.