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Appointment confirmations are a necessity in today’s fast-paced environment. Not only does the process help forgetful patients (or their parents) to stay on time, but it can reduce your appointment no-show rate. Every no-show you eliminate improves your practice’s bottom line. To be effective, follow these 9 tips:
1. Touch base with the patient well in advance. If you have a busy practice with preventive visits or physicals scheduled months in advance, confirm each one between 25 and 30 days before the patient’s appointment. That way, if the patient has changed his/her mind or realized the date and time won’t work, you’ll have plenty of time to find someone else for the slot.
2. Confirm 36 hours in advance. This step gives your practice an entire business day to reschedule the slot if the patient cancels.
3. Make it short and sweet. Don’t use a 5-minute recorded message for your confirmation calls because many patients will hang up before getting the main point of your communication.
4. Work the undeliverable report. If you automate the confirmation process, your vendor delivers a report showing the patients it was unable to reach. Don’t just toss this report in the trash; research those patients’ accounts to find an alternate telephone number.
5. Keep a waitlist. A waitlist offers an ideal opportunity to quickly turn cancellations into appointments. Use it to pull in those patients who are willing, interested – and delighted – to come on short-notice.
6. Capture cell phone numbers. If you can only capture one number for a patient, make sure it’s a cell number. Wireless is the most reliable way to reach most patients these days.
7. Start texting. Texting confirmations is becoming more popular with patients and practices alike. The typical 36-hour advance confirmation is fine for a start, but consider also texting the patient 2 hours in advance of the appointment.
8. Use a reputable vendor. Companies seem to be coming out of the woodwork to deliver appointment confirmations on behalf of medical practices. Choose carefully. This is an area of your practice that you cannot put into the hands of a fly-by-night operation.
9. Replace the work. Many practices automate appointment confirmations as a way to eliminate those tasks from the front office. That’s great if the staff member making the calls is overloaded with other work, but be careful that outsourcing confirmation tasks doesn’t just open gaps of empty time. Re-examine staff workflow after outsourcing to see where to fit in other important tasks.

A careful appointment confirmation process pays off, but only if it is well managed. Use these nine tips to prevent no-shows and turn cancellations into billable appointments that improve your practice’s bottom line.

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