Dental offices extoll an immense amount of effort and money trying to get new patients. Nothing is more disheartening than when a new patient schedules an appointment but does not show up. Unfortunately, this occurs more than many offices would wish it to happen.

Is there any way to stop this, or is this just the nature of some patients? Dr. Steven Katz, Dental practice owner, and dental coach spoke with us about new patient protocols and what he believes are the root causes of new patient no-shows.

The question is what causes a patient to not show up? And it usually is a fact that they don’t have a relationship with the practice. That they may have identified the practice through a Google search. They’ve made contact by the phone, they’ve made an appointment, but somehow there may have been something in that phone call or something that crossed their mind that put up a little bit of a roadblock for them. And after getting off the phone, they have gone to look additionally for other practices on their search, and they don’t have the courtesy to call back and cancel that appointment they made.

It boils down to the simple fact that the new patient does not have a relationship with the dental office. So, if not establishing a relationship with the practice is the root cause of new patient no-shows, how then do you establish a relationship? This is hard to do as the patient hasn’t even come into the office yet. Fortunately, Dr. Katz has a simple tactic – create contact between the doctor and the patient prior to the first visit. He does this in his practice by calling each new patient before their first appointment. 

Dr. Katz mentioned he came up with this idea when he had that experience firsthand with his mother and mother-in-law during their respective treatments with breast cancer:

I remember how comforting it was to them to speak to that doctor the night before their first appointment and have that doctor give them encouragement and give them optimism and let them know how well he was going to take care of them.

I adopted that into my own private practice, my dental practice used it for many, many years with a great return in developing an initial relationship and developing some initial caring and trust.

Appointment reminders are nothing new. Every dental practice uses them in some fashion, such as Weave’s automated text appointment reminders. However, what would it say to the new patient if they got a personal phone call or message from the dentist before their first appointment? It certainly shows the doctor cares.

The phone call – or even text – does not have to be long. Dr. Katz mentions he keeps it simple like the following script:

Hi, Mrs. Jones. This is Dr. Katz. I always like to call guests before they come to our office for the first time, to welcome you to the office and to introduce myself also to find out if there’s anything in particular that concerns you before you come in so that we can be better prepared.

By personally reaching out by phone call, there is a strong chance the patient does not answer. However, Dr. Katz has found that by leaving a personal voice message, patients often mention the phone call when they come in, saying “do you know that the doctor called me last night? That was so nice. I really appreciated that.”

The advantage of having this phone call is it differentiates you from all other interactions that people have had with treating physicians and dentists. It really says you care when you make that call. In fact, Dr. Katz says that many times

Patients will say, “you’re the doctor calling me?” and I’ll say, “yes, of course I am, and I’m doing this because I care deeply about my patients.”

One of the benefits of communication software like Weave is that establishing that contact is easy and efficient. The doctor can do it while at the office or from the convenience of their personal mobile phone, on their commute home, by utilizing the Weave app. The Weave app allows you to pull up all patient information and easily initiate a phone call or text from the business phone number. 

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The new patient outreach does more than just increase the chance they show up to their first appointment, it helps build the relationship between them and the practice. When patients come into the office, if you’ve left a message one of the first things they’ll say to the receptionist is, And that goes a long way in creating a better relationship. What we find is relationships and the solidity of those relationships go a long way in promoting a higher treatment acceptance. 

I do believe that contacting, making contact between the doctor and a patient before their visit will make them a longer lasting patient with a much greater relationship and will be more fulfilling for both sides of that relationship.