Are Cancellation Fees Effective?

Many dental practices attempt to curb cancellations by charging a fee.  But is this effective?

Cancellation fees, coupled with appropriate phraseology, work well as a deterrent against patients who call to cancel dental appointments without appropriate notice.  Many times I have witnessed patients experience a sudden change of heart when they learn about a cancellation fee.

The best approach for the front office team is to omit hasty judgment and approach each potential cancellation with professionalism and empathy.

“John, I know things come up, but I would hate for you to get charged our cancellation fee.  As you may remember, we charge patients $50 for cancelling without 48 hours notice.  Are you sure you can’t find a way to make it?  We have that time reserved just for you, and we would really like to see you.”

The patient is not lectured; instead the goal is to remind the patient about the fee and guide him to keep the appointment.

When you do encounter situations, however, when patients cannot keep their appointments, it is critical to have clear guidelines about when you charge a fee.  It’s wise to give everyone one free pass.  Sometimes things happen.  In addition, you do not want to charge patients who are sick or facing some type of emergency.  And more leeway is typically given to long-standing patients who consistently keep their appointments.  Again, sometimes things happen.

When the team encounters a situation where a cancellation fee is warranted, make sure the doctor is always informed before the fee is actually billed.  And when a patient is irresponsible enough to incur a cancellation fee, you have to also decide if you want to keep the patient in your practice.

Few things are more irritating to a dental team than last-minute cancellations.  By appropriately using cancellation fees, you can help minimize last-minute gaps in your schedule.

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