Are Broken Appointments Breaking Your Dental Practice?


By Susan Kulakowski


Some dental practices have six broken appointments a month and others six a day!  There can be a beautifully engineered schedule first thing in the morning and several phone calls later the schedule has fallen apart.



1. Lack of Communication Regarding the Importance of the Next Appointment

The team must stress the importance of the next visit.  When leaving the practice, “Mr. Stevens, we are looking forward to your visit in four months to check the area we are concerned about on your lower right molar.” Give the patient a reason to return.

2. Unmotivated Staff

When a patient calls to cancel, what is the tone of voice?  Is it excited?  “Don’t think another thing about it, Mr. Smith” and runs back to the rest of the team, “guess what, we get an extra-long lunch hour today.”  Or, a vanilla voice, “That’s ok, Mr. Smith, would you like to reschedule?”  I recommend friendly disappointment, “Mrs. Smith, we have reserved an entire hour of the doctor’s time.  He and his assistant are fully prepared for your visit.  How may I assist you in keeping this very important appointment?”  Many can be discouraged if handled properly.

3. Courtesy Calls

I don’t like “confirming or verifying” the appointment.  This indicates one of us is unsure of the appointment.  I recommend a courtesy call.  “Mrs. Smith, this is Susan with Dr. Hank’s practice.  This is a courtesy call to let you know we are looking forward to your visit Thursday at 10:00.”

4. No Solutions for the Patient’s Problem

A patient calls with car problems.  “Mrs. Smith, when would you like your taxi?”  The patient is surprised.  “Mrs. Smith, I would rather send a taxi than have to tell the doctor and her assistant they have nothing to do for two hours.”  A patient has run over the neighbor’s cat and must bury it before the kids get home from school.  “Mrs. Jones, place the cat in a box and you can bury it tonight after the kids go to bed.” (Smiles!)

5. Misguided Information

Does your appointment card say something like, “If unable to keep this appointment, kindly give us 24-48 hours of notice?”  The practice is asking for changes and is not sending the message broken appointments are not appreciated by the practice. The appointment card should say, “This time has been reserved exclusively for you. We trust there will be no change.”

If you have been concerned about the level of cancellations you have had lately, discuss these 5 reasons why patients break their dental appointments. Track the next month’s cancellations and be proactive about following up on all cancellations in the last few months. You’ll see the number of broken appointments decrease when your team is intentional about improving this score.