How to improve the dental confirmation process
The confirmation process is at the heart of any successful practice. Without solid, unwavering, and detailed plans, patients fall through cracks, which can send teams into tailspins of stress as your practice’s revenue plummets. The mistake teams make around the confirmation process is that they care more about the patients than they do themselves. By which I mean that dentists and front desk teams care more about not dealing with upset patients and avoiding possible conflict than they do about ensuring the schedule staying full, the team making their goals, and the practice having a healthy overhead. Improving dental confirmation is important to gaining money but most importantly profit.
Improving Dental Confirmation
This approach is a lose-lose-lose situation:
- The patients lose out on getting the oral health they need because the team didn’t press the urgency of keeping their original appointment.
- The staff loses because they miss out on growth and self-development.
- The business loses as owners continually are focusing on catching up and reactivating patients than strategically creating future business.
But what can do be done about the situation?
Don’t plant the seed
Too often, team members sabotage scheduling issues, and they don’t realize it. Because the team doesn’t want to seem “too pushy,” the last thing patients hear before they leave is “If that appointment doesn’t work for you, it’s no problem. Just give us a call and we can change/reschedule it for you.”
Planting the seed of rescheduling or canceling an appointment already gives the patient permission to call (or not) and reschedule or cancel.
Instead, reaffirm what you want to happen. As the patient leaves, make sure multiple people say, “Mr. Patient, your appointment is for next Thursday at 2 p.m. You have your appointment card, and make sure to put it in your calendar so you get reminders. We look forward to seeing you.”
Never say the words
It’s called a confirmation process, but team members use the words rescheduling and canceling/changing appointments more than words on how to confirm the appointment.
And then practice owners wonder why patients reschedule and cancel so often. Ultimately, when the conversation is focused on confirming rather than on rescheduling and canceling, your patients will follow suit.
I advise my clients to the only talk about confirming in their messaging. For example, instead of saying in an automated emails/text, “Call the office 24 hours in advance to reschedule or cancel your appointment,” say, “Confirm your appointment at least 24 hours beforehand.”
“The best people to create urgency around an appointment is the clinical team, not the front desk.”
Don’t leave it to chance
When talking about clinical treatment, teams feel very comfortable bringing out the videos, models, charts, and posters to educate patients on complicated processes. Yet when it comes to the important internal processes patients need to follow, the patients are told about their next appointment as they walk out the door. Take a step back and look at the level of urgency that creates for patients.
I recommend using visual aids as you thoroughly talk patients through the confirmation process. Setting them up for success allows them to be committed to what you want to happen.
Also, make sure each of your team members understands the confirmation flow and can educate every patient on the process of confirming. The best people to create urgency around an appointment is the clinical team, not the front desk. Patients are still focusing on the necessary clinical procedures and are more likely to pay attention than when they are trying to get out the door at the front desk.
To have visual aids also means you have a documented system that teams can articulate. Adhering to a defined timeline (see table below) makes it easy for everyone to be on the same page.
Money makes it meaningful
The reality for people is that when money is attached to something, it makes it more meaningful to them. Making sure to collect payment from patients to “reserve provider time” will put skin in the game for both of you and your patients, while reducing the risk of them not showing up for their appointments. It also helps discern a patient’s level of commitment to moving forward with treatment.
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