Dental and medical offices try a variety of methods to reduce to these loses such as overbooking, charging cancellation fees, automated reminder systems etc. Overbooking is definitely not a good idea as having two or more patients show up at the same time can result in longer wait times for others and nobody likes to be kept waiting.
Automated reminder systems (email, text, phone) definitely work and should be implemented. These systems have shown to reduce the percentage of no-shows by 20 -25%. They can be set up to automatically send email reminders requesting appointment confirmation through a secure internet connection. Automated phone calls can also remind the patients to confirm their appointments with your office.
Your office needs to use different modes of communication to get in touch with your patients. In this present day and age, many people respond faster to email/text rather than phone. I can tell you from my own experience with my provider. I get an email reminder a few days prior to my appointment. The email provides a link to a secure webpage where I can confirm or cancel my appointment. It also gives me the option to add the appointment to my calendar and even provides directions to the office (which new patients will appreciate). There are a number of automated reminder solutions available that are affordable even for solo or small group practices and be set up very quickly. There is no special hardware needed and the software can usually be downloaded directly over the internet.
Relying just on the phone is not a good practice, nor is an efficient way to use your staff’s time. On some really busy days your staff may not find the time to make appointment reminder calls. In most cases it is cheaper to use automated system than have one of your staff make calls. Their time is valuable. Use it wisely. Get in touch with the patients a week before their appointment. This gives them a chance to reschedule the appointment if needed and more importantly gives your office time to fill that slot with another patient, in case of a cancellation.
Despite all the above methods some patients are chronic no-shows or late comers. You need to weed the chronic no-shows out of your practice. Have a practice policy that clearly states that late comers will lose their appointment slot and will have to wait for the next available one. Display this policy along with the cancellation fee policy at your front desk and on your website.