Tips to Minimize Cancellations and Improve Appointment Control

Cancellations and missed appointments are one of the biggest frustrations in any practice and result in lowered production and lost revenue. Cancellations and missed appointments are typically symptoms of other underlying problems. This may be a nonverbal way that the person is telling you that he or she is not satisfied with the service received.

Shown below are some suggestions to help reduce no-shows, cancellations and reschedules. The first key to controlling appointment compliance and smooth patient or client flow is for the receptionist to fully understand that the appointment book has been placed in their hands, and they are fully responsible for its handling. The following points will help the receptionist perform their duties in this regard:

  • Ensure that you are fully aware of what the appointment policies of the practice are, and see to it that you are trained to apply those procedures.
  • Utilize your “General Policy” statement to educate patients or clients on the necessity of keeping their appointments.
  • You must have the honest and genuine attitude that you really care about this person, and you know why it is important for them to set and keep their appointment for their recommended care. You must be committed to good health and good service for the patient or client, and know that the appointment for the recommended treatment is necessary. Fully communicate this attitude with the person that you are talking to, especially when setting appointments.
  • Always call any patient or client immediately if they do not arrive within 15 minutes of the scheduled appointment. Find out from the person if something is wrong that caused him or her to miss the appointment. Convey a caring “time is valuable” attitude to the person, and let them know that you want to work with them to ensure that they can make it in.
  • When a patient or client calls to cancel, investigate diplomatically to discover the real reason why they are canceling. Many times you’ll find it is a financial consideration, or a lack of understanding about why they need the recommended care.
  • Really listen to what they are saying to you. In this way you will be able to work with the person to help resolve the real underlying problem. Never assume you know what the problem is. Work with your patients or clients to remove the barriers that are preventing them from adhering to the scheduled appointments. When you have found the real reason for the cancellation, you then must handle it so that the person does, in fact, keep the appointment.

For example, if you find that the person is having financial difficulties, the following points could help:

  • Determine the exact problem and inform the person that this can be worked out with the financial secretary when they come into the office.
  • It might be effective to put the financial secretary on the phone with them at that time if there is no other way to handle the situation.
  • You’ll get the best results, though, if you deal with the situation over the phone, at least to the point of willingness on the person’s part to come into the office where matters might be more easily and personally taken care of.

If the problem is not financial but of some other nature, e.g., upset with service or another staff member, and you are not able to handle the problem with them on the phone at that moment:

  • Let them know that you are concerned about this.
  • Inform them that the doctor always wants to know of such matters.
  • Advise the person that you will have the doctor or the office manager give them a call to discuss the situation.
    Ensure that you immediately inform the proper authority (doctor or office manager) of the person’s concerns so that they are called at the first opportunity.
  • Handle the barrier that you found as best as you can right then. If you are able to fully handle it at that time, go ahead and schedule an appointment for them. Assume that they are now going to make an appointment, and give them a limited choice as to when to now come in. For example you could say, “When would be best for you Mrs. Smith, next Tuesday or Wednesday?”

You will not be perfect and handle 100% of the situations that arise, but you can always improve your technique to remove the barriers that the patients or clients face. Your intent and caring for the patient/client will prove to be more influential in your success than you might imagine.

When the going gets tough, read over the “Purpose of the Practice” and the purpose of your position, and in your own words, impart this to whomever you are speaking with. When dealing with a difficult person, always keep in mind those numerous patients who have been helped by your office. Don’t let the few tough ones get you down. Work together with the doctor and the office manager, as a team, to handle the difficult situations.

If you feel you would benefit from a one on one consultation on how to help you with practice management, please fill out the form on this page and we would be more than willing to assist you.

If you need assistance in implementing this article or any practice management topic, we offer one hour of complementary consulting for free, if you participate in a 15 minute anonymous interview to help us in our upcoming publications. Fill out form below