How to deal with a broken appointment

Remember that the first step in dealing with a BA is preventing it in the first place. Prevention begins during a patient call. It continues through every step of their visit: establishing the value of an appointment during the new patient exam; discussion of scheduling during treatment presentation, reinforcing the Patient’s commitment during financial and scheduling dialog and communicating the requirement for a 48-hour notice of any change in their reserved appointment time.

If your practice uses confirmation calls as a tool, here is a typical statement:

“Ms. Patient, the Doctor is looking forward to seeing you on 2024 for [specific reason/procedure].”The tone of your voice during this conversation or message is critical: it must reflect the assumption that the Patient remembers the appointment and is committed to keeping it. Do not use words such as “confirm” or “remind” because it subtly allows for the possibility of a broken appointment.


If the Patient Provides an Acceptable Excuse for the BA,
Example: Sudden illness, death in the family, personal crisis, etc. Response: “Ms. Patient, I can certainly understand why you could not call us in advance about this. Let’s reschedule and reserve another time for you.” Note that it is important to book four to six weeks out from the original appointment to give a sense that the practice is busy and that appointments are valuable. You can always call the Patient if an “opportunity” for an earlier appointment arises.

If the Patient Does Not Provide an Acceptable Excuse for the BA
Example: “Too busy,” company in town, car trouble, forgot, “you did not reach them to confirm,” busy at work, etc. Response: Your Response to an unexcused BA is more complicated. Your goal is threefold:

1. To maintain a mutually respectful relationship with the patient. 2. Reinforce the Doctor’s concern about their dental health. 3. Reestablish the value of their reserved time and the importance of honoring their commitment. Use a caring tone of voice and avoid communicating frustration or anger in your conversation.

That’s it for today. Next week we will share how your staff needs to respond if it is the first and second broken appointment.

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