Guest Column — Kevin Tighe — Ten Point Checklist to Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows

CEO Cambridge Dental Consultants

Kevin Tighe is the managing partner of Cambridge Dental Consultants.  We think of him as being a combination of brilliant insight and applied common sense.  Let’s see some of his wisdom:


Ten Point Checklist to Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows

Reducing cancellations and no-shows have similar but different protocols for:

  1. New patients
  2. Patients due for re-care
  3. Patients past due for re-care
  4. Patients scheduled for operative

Ten Point Checklist

  1. Patient communication: Despite amazing technology available to dental offices, the most important step to keep no-shows and cancellations low is talking to patients while they are in the practice to ensure they’re educated on the negative effects on their oral and overall health that can occur if they do not receive the needed treatment and on-going re-care.
  1. Confirming appointments: It is key that you assign confirmation to one team member otherwise there is no real accountability. That team member should have outstanding communication skills and have their ear “tuned” to lack of commitment phrases from patients and handle accordingly.
  1. Communication preference: Find out how patients prefer to be contacted i.e. postcard, text, email, or phone. Texting is now, in general, the preferred method. I do not recommend offering a postcard. Only use a postcard if a patient requests it.
  1. Confirmation schedule: 3-3-1— three weeks, three days, and one day, unless a patient tells you differently.
  1. Confirm directly: Certain types of patients need to be confirmed directly no matter what. Examples:

a) Previously broke an appointment.

b) Those in their 20s.

c) Medicaid patients or any other government plan (those who pay cash or have private insurance are more reliable).

d) Patients who have not been in the practice for a long time.

e) International patients due to language barriers or different moral codes.

f) A parent or spouse who made appointment for a grown child or their spouse.

Note: For chronic broken appointment patients (three broken appointments or not sorry after the second broken appointment) dismiss or only allow on your short call list.

  1. Short call list: Helps plug holes in your appointment book.
  1. Operative: One day before unless the appointment was booked well in advance, in which case it’s 3-3-1.
  1. New patients: A call from the dentist welcoming the new patient to the practice will cut down on new patient no-shows.
  1.  No shows: Call the patient right away. If you do not reach the patient, let them know you’ll try back in a week. Repeat a week later if necessary. If there is still no response, put them on automatic reminders using their preferred form of communication.
  1. Continue to follow up: After a month or so of no response, continue to make calls based on your knowledge of a patient without becoming obnoxious or seeming desperate. How many calls you make should be based on what you know about a patient. You should not be rote about how often you call, i.e., if you know the patient is out of town for a few weeks, is ill, or whatever the case may be, schedule your calls accordingly.

Cambridge’s website is https://www.mydentalconsultant.com/, and the toll-free phone number is 800-595-2380