As a dentist or medical practitioner, schedule management is imperative. If you had the power to see which of your patients were going to make it to their appointment, and which ones weren’t, your production and profitability would skyrocket. You could fill every appointment, every day, and drastically boost profitability. This is the reason that we try to confirm all of our patients in advance. This is the reason that we invest in appointment confirmation software (check out our appointment reminder solution here). The closer a practice can get to a completely full schedule, the better.
How Often Are Your Patients Ignoring Their Confirmation Messages?
You want all of your patients to confirm their appointments. You probably even invest in an appointment confirmation system that helps you do this, but chances are high that you still have a good number of appointments that go unconfirmed each week. So you sit back and cross your fingers that the patient is still going to show up, even though they haven’t confirmed through any of the texts or emails that you sent out.
Minimizing Unconfirmed Appointments
Why aren’t patients confirming? Are they seeing the messages? Are they planning to come and just haven’t had time to respond? Are they planning to miss their appointment? Are they just waiting to see if something better comes up?
These are all valid questions, and they should all be addressed as you are pinpointing the problem of unconfirmed appointments. Here are a few variables about each of these questions that you should consider as you go through the process.
Are Your Patients Getting their Confirmation Message?
- Do you have accurate patient information?
- Do you have an automated system that sends the messages?
- Is your system set up properly?
Are They Planning to Come, but Just Haven’t Confirmed Yet?
- Do your patients feel any sense of obligation to respond?
- Is your message clear enough that they know they should respond?
- Did you send the message at a time that was convenient for them to respond?
Are Your Patients Planning to Miss Their Appointment?
- Do your patients understand that it is important for them to let you know in advance if they are not planning to make it to their appointment?
- Is there a reason that your patients don’t want to come to their appointment?
Are They Waiting to See if Something Better Comes Up?
- Do your patients understand the importance of their next dental appointment?
- Do your patients understand that your time is valuable?
Crafting a Confirmation Process that Maximizes Results
Here at Weave, we have had the opportunity to see practices of all different shapes and sizes, and to gain some insight into how their confirmation processes work. Even with all of this data, we have not yet found an infallible process. While you won’t get a confirmation process that works perfectly, here are some tips that will help your confirmation process be more successful.
Update Patient Information Regularly
If you get a call from a patient on a number that is not in your system, ask them if this is a new number, or if the number that you have for them is still correct. This is very easy with Weave’s integration because if a patient calls on a number in your system, it will pull up the name. This means that if a patient calls in, and your system doesn’t pull up a patient in your system, they are calling from a different number. Ask them if they got a new phone number and simply update their profile.
Hand out questionnaires on occasion in your practice so that your patients can indicate if anything has changed with their contact information.
Make Your Messaging Personal
If you have the right people in your front office, chances are high that your patients love them. One of the aspects that drives your patients to confirm their appointment is obligation. If patients feel obligated to the person on the other end of a text message, they are more likely to confirm than if they feel like they are communicating with a machine. Script your confirmation texts so that they are coming from someone who your patients have a strong connection with. With Weave’s confirmation system, you can craft a personal message from your front office person that opens up a conversation with the patient. The system is smart enough to recognize any affirmative response.
Consider the difference between the following two messages. “Hi James, this is Julie from Pineview Dental. We have an appointment scheduled for you on Monday, February 18th at 12:00 PM. Does that still work for you?” or, “Hi James, you have an appointment scheduled on Monday, February 18th at 12:00 PM. Respond C to confirm”. If you are being totally honest with yourself, which of those texts do you feel more obligated to respond to?
Educate Patients About the Value of Their Future Visit
Psychological egoism claims that all human action stems from self-interest. If this is true, it is important to help your patients understand how their next appointment will benefit them. The reason your patient is going to confirm and keep their appointment is that it has a benefit to them. Understanding what motivates your patients and tying that to the value that you communicate to them will help decrease your broken appointments drastically.
Let’s say that you have a patient who is very concerned about the way they look. This might be indicated by the clothes they wear or the amount of time and money that they spend on their appearance. Helping this patient understand how their next visit is going to help keep them looking beautiful will drastically improve the chances that they confirm and keep that appointment.
Yet another scenario would be a patient who is very concerned about maintaining their health. This might be indicated by the things they eat and the herbal supplements they take. Helping this patient understand how their next appointment is going to help keep them healthy will increase their desire to make it to the appointment.
You want your schedule to be as predictable as possible. You want all of your patients to confirm and keep their appointments. To increase the probability that your days go as planned:
- Make sure that your patient information is as accurate as possible
- Make your confirmation texts personal
- Communicate value that the patient will relate to
If you want to see an increase in confirmations and a decrease in cancellations, give these things a try in your office.