By Roger P. Levin, DDS
A startling number of patients in many orthodontic practices are overdue for check appointments. To prevent patients from becoming overdue:
• Educate new patients and parents about the importance of compliance. Once treatment a patient has accepted treatment, emphasize the importance of staying on schedule from beginning to end. Use effective scripting to explain that compliance benefits the patient and family in terms of comfort, convenience, and reaching the ultimate goals of improved appearance and function in the scheduled timeframe.
• Take measures to prevent missed appointments. Place calls to remind patients and parents about upcoming appointments and get confirmation that they will present. This call should be carefully scripted to build value for on-time checks.
• Follow up immediately on missed appointments. Reinforce the importance of compliance by calling as soon as possible to reschedule a patient who has failed to show. Express concern for the patient’s well-being. Point out that the treatment process cannot be accelerated, so any delays now could potentially postpone the completion of treatment—and its benefits. Finally, elicit agreement that the patient will definitely keep the new appointment.
When patients miss check appointments, their entire schedule—and the practice’s schedule—is thrown off. If they are not quickly brought back into the schedule, these patients become overdue for debonds. When this happens, you can treat fewer patients.
Many orthodontic practices will lose $500,000 or more over 20 years due to scheduling issues caused by no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Call all parents when their children are 1 day overdue for a check appointment. Follow up for 3 weeks by phone, 3 weeks by email and 3 more weeks by letter. The result will be that you can maintain a practice with a very high percentage of patients who are on schedule, and a potential. $500,000 loss can be turned into a multi-million dollar gain, because you will have time to treat more patients.