Oldie but goodie! This post was originally published in May 2014 and updated in Oct 2017 as part of an on-going series highlighting popular past posts.
Ouch. What to do when patients say "no" to your patient confirmations?
In a perfect world, patient confirmations wouldn’t be necessary, because every patient would always show up.
In a perfect world, people wouldn’t make appointments they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep.
Too bad this isn't a perfect world!
Oh sure, they all initially intend to keep their appointment (since they bothered to schedule it.) Things come up, we get it. But understanding doesn’t ease the pain of a no-show.
This is why practices send appointment confirmation requests to their patients. Getting patients to say they are coming increases their commitment, and decreases the likelihood that they will stand you up.
However, patient confirmations have benefits that aren’t contingent upon a “yes” response. Take a look at some of the “silver linings” of receiving a “no”, and make sure you’re using them to your benefit!
Silver Lining #1: They are more likely to reschedule their appointment.
Sometimes patients simply can’t make their appointment, but the one that responds to your confirmation request with a “no” is a lot more likely to reschedule than the one that just doesn’t show up. The conversation is already started by their response, so you can use it to give them the opportunity to find a better time. It sure beats calling them a dozen times trying to reach them after they no-show.
Silver Lining #2 & #3: You have time to fill the spot.
This is a two-part benefit:
#2: You don’t miss out on the expected revenue.
If a patient doesn’t respond to your confirmation request, you have little choice but to leave the spot open and hope they show up. When you know that the patient will miss their appointment before they miss it, you can use automated wait-list messaging to quickly replace the cancelled appointment and avoid missing out on the scheduled revenue.
#3: You get to boost patient satisfaction.
When you know you’ll have an empty spot, you get to make someone else’s day. Patients that can’t get in right away usually understand, but when you tell them that you’ll call if something opens up they don’t really believe you. When you use ASAP messaging to immediately send a mass notification to your wait list, the patient that really wants that appointment will be quick to write back and call “dibs.” Their patient satisfaction just increased, and so did their loyalty.
Silver Lining #4: You can take advantage of the break.
Just because they haven’t confirmed doesn’t mean they aren’t coming. Whether or not you hear back, you still have to make sure someone is smiling behind the front desk. On the other hand, if they tell you they aren’t coming (and you don’t have a patient waiting to snag their spot), you are free to take a long lunch, work on this month’s newsletter, crank up the music, or grab a short nap before your next scheduled appointment.
Silver Lining #5: You know they’re listening.
Whether they respond with a yes or a no, any response at all tells you that your patient outreach is doing its job - reaching them. It also tells you that they are the kind of patient you want to keep around; they’re considerate enough to not just leave you hanging.
Asking your patients to confirm is an important pre-appointment task, but remember that it can be just as beneficial to your office when a patient responds with a ‘no’ as when they respond with a ‘yes’.
Find out how to avoid no-shows in our free ebook "No-shows, no more."