Reducing Dental Appointment Cancellations

Imagine the nice vacations you could take if you could capture just a fraction of the cost of missed dental appointments.  The cost is also felt across the ocean.  The National Health Services in the UK recently conducted a study looking at how to curb the costs of missed appointments.  The King’s Fund, a health think tank in the UK, estimates the cost of missed appointments at over 700 million Euros each year.


During the study, practices asked patients, who called to schedule an appointment, to repeat the date and time for their visit before hanging up.  Missed appointment dropped by almost seven percent.

In another study, patients filled out their own return address on recall reminder cards, and missed appointments were reduced by eighteen percent.  Two simple techniques made a significant difference in missed appointments.

We can obviously apply the same techniques in dentistry.  Front teams consistently report better compliance by simply repeating the date and time of appointments when patients call.  Recall cards filled out by patients or cards that stand out both have a positive effect on patients keeping appointments.


I have also discovered that phraseology plays a key role.  When you and your dental team let patients know you are “reserving” time just for them, patients place greater value on your time.  They are making a “reservation,” which people are more likely to keep.

Finally, many practices send reminders via text messages and email in addition to traditional calls.  I hear from practice after practice how this really helps reduce the number of patient no-shows.

Missed appointments are costly.  The good news is simple solutions to correct this problem are inexpensive and easy to implement.

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