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Focusing on short notice cancellations and appointment no-shows may not seem like a huge issue. If you are like me, you have never been a medical no-show, but it’s a big problem and it costs $150 billion a year in the US alone (https://www.healthmgttech.com/missed-appointments-cost-u.s.healthcare-system-150b-year).
Dentistry figures are included in these numbers. That’s why I was so pleased to see this piece by Kevin Tighe, https://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2016/03/10-proven-steps-to-reduce-cancellations-and-no-shows-in-your-dental-practice.html. This is great for several reasons. Not only does it provide specific ways for a dental practice to reduce cancellations, it also highlights which steps can benefit from automation, and which cannot.
Steps one through three (talk with them about dental hygiene and health, make sure someone is in charge of their confirmation, and capture their communication preferences), are all about human interaction with the patient. Step four – keep a schedule for how you engage them, they suggest three weeks, three days, and one day before the appointment – especially once you have captured their preferences – that can be automated with software – that’s where CareCru’s DonnaTM, the intelligent virtual office assistant, comes into play.
Step five (because of their history – you have to get in touch with them directly) is another one that can be hard to do manually, but software can make it easy. Knowing who was late the last time, or who was a no-show or cancellation two out of the last three times is something software can tell you – and once it does, you can use the human touch to cover the last step to get a definitive answer about whether they will show up and keep your production where you want it to be. DonnaTM uses artificial intelligence to generate Insights for specific situations like this, that are recommended and prioritized for office staff – saving the staff the trouble of looking up patient history.
Step six – to have the active short call list is another one where you can use some automation, like the digital waitlist Carecru’s Donna offers, and when there is a sudden hole in the calendar, the practice can decide if it wants to contact everyone digitally who might want to fill that spot, or they can also do it manually.
Step seven, reminders, are something that can and should be automated – and many practices have already done this.
Step eight gets back to the human touch – when it’s a new patient, it’s probably a good idea for them to hear a human voice and feel welcome to your practice.
Step nine takes us to when the patient does not show – again this is a great opportunity to blend automation (text messages or e-mail) with the human touch, and you might want to set up business rules for whether they are a new patient or an existing patient that might be a repeat offender and have some of it automated and some of it manual – with the right software platform, all of this is configurable to your preferences.
Step ten, the unresponsive patient is another case where you should set up business rules for not only human and automated communication – but probably notification that you might not accept future appointments from them if they don’t make the effort to remedy the communication gap.
This is a very helpful piece, and as more and more practices become aware of how to add automation and business intelligence to their workflow, we at CareCru are confident cancellations and no-shows will decrease significantly, which makes for healthier patients, and busier dental practices.