Last updated on October 13th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Last minute cancellations are never any fun, regardless of whether you get them on the hygiene or doctor’s schedule. That said, I always found last minute cancellations on the doctor’s schedule to be more problematic – especially with relation to making my production goal. Why? Well, as we know, hygiene appointments vary far less in their production value than appointments on the doctor’s schedule. One unfilled cancellation in hygiene might cost you 1/8th of the day’s goal – while one cancellation on the doctor’s schedule might blow up half of what you have lined up for your day!

And with that in mind, I wanted to give you a few tips on how to fill those last-minute openings effectively on the doctor’s schedule. We also have an article on how to fill last minute hygiene openings if your interested written by Sabri Blumberg, which you can find here.

Before I get into things, this information is just a small excerpt of the Scheduling Coordinator Training we do here at MGE. If you’re looking for more information on the subject, check out our Scheduling Coordinator Training Course from MGE’s online training platform at www.ddssuccess.com, or come to our seminar The Art of Scheduling Productively, that we offer throughout the US and Canada.

All right, let’s get started! Your 2 PM for the doctor cancelled this morning. What do you do? Here are seven things that can help you fill that opening!

1. Use your short-call list.

The first “go-to” to fill gaps in the doctor’s schedule can be your short-call list. If you have patients who you’ve talked to about being able to come in sooner than they’re scheduled if a space in the schedule opens up, call those first since you already know there’s a better chance that they can come in.

(Related: 3 Techniques to Improve Employee Phone Skills)

2. Call patients scheduled in the future and move them up.

The second way to fill those holes is to call patients who are scheduled in the future. See if you can move them up closer into your schedule. This will buy you some more time to fill those openings that have been created by patients moving up in the schedule. For example, say you move Joe who’s having two crown preps done on Thursday up to the opening you have today (Tuesday) to replace “Bill” who is sick and had to cancel his appointment for a single crown prep. You now have today’s opening filled, and you bought yourself another two days to fill that opening on Thursday.

3. Patients scheduled that day for a consultation

The third way is by the consults that are coming into the office that day. Now, consults come from either being scheduled as a consult or maybe there are patients in your hygiene schedule that have treatment that’s been diagnosed but haven’t accepted that treatment yet. If they accept treatment during the consult, they may be able to start that day.

(Related: Running Behind Schedule in Your Dental Office? Here’s How to Fix It!)

4. Call patients with outstanding treatment

The fourth way is to do outstanding treatment calls. Those are calls to patients who have outstanding/unscheduled treatment. It’s been diagnosed, but they haven’t accepted it, made financial arrangements or scheduled for it.

You won’t necessarily schedule these people for the treatment itself – part of the reason they are on this list is they haven’t agreed to go ahead with the treatment yet! And if it’s been a while since it was diagnosed, things may have changed.

There may be a few cases where you can schedule them directly for the treatment, but usually the easiest thing to do is schedule those patients to come in to see the doctor for a checkup. In essence, it’s a consult.

(Related: A “Full” Schedule is Not Always a Productive Schedule)

Now, you don’t necessarily want to charge patients for this visit; just have them come in for a no-charge evaluation. The doctor needs to make sure that the patient is stable in their dental condition, since there was a diagnosed condition that didn’t get addressed. So, have them come on in and let’s see what we need to do for them. Then the doctor can discuss treatment options with them again. And again, if they agree to go ahead with treatment, they may be able to start right away.

5. Emergency patients

The fifth source of patients to fill openings in your doctor’s schedule are emergencies that may call in. It’s important that you get those emergencies in the same day. Try not to put them off until Hygiene Cancellations & No-Shows: 5 Ways to Reduce Them - MGEtomorrow unless you absolutely have to. Get them in the same day, even if they just come in for a few minutes for the doctor to take a look and see what’s going on. When you get them in the same day you have an opportunity to go ahead and take care of whatever treatment it is that patient needs that was an emergency.

6. New patients

The sixth source of patients that can fill openings in your doctor’s schedule are new patients. Now, new patients aren’t necessarily a very reliable way to fill those openings in the doctor’s schedule because you never know what’s going on with that patient. When they come in, they may need treatment or may be completely healthy. They may also be a patient that you’re going to have to refer out to a specialist before you can do any treatment.

(Related: How to Turn Emergency New Patients Into Great Long-Term Patients)

So, while new patients are a valuable resource for future treatment, it’s not always the best thing to rely on. The other sources that I’ve mentioned already are far better resources, but if you have absolutely no other option than to rely on those new patients, go ahead.

7. Tap into your reactivation list

The seventh resource for filling holes in the doctor’s schedule are reactivation patients. Those are patients that you haven’t seen in quite awhile. Typically, they’re more than three months overdue for their last cleaning and they may have had things come up in that time that you haven’t seen them that they need treatment for.

With that reactivation list, see if you can get some patients that are overdue into the hygiene schedule (if there is space available). The doctor can see them for their exam while they are there. Similar to new patients, you won’t necessarily know what they’re going to need so it’s not always the most reliable resource.

Those are my seven tips for filling holes in the doctor’s schedule – I hope it helps in making your schedule smoother and more productive!

Again, this is just one small tip. For more information on how to really control your schedule, you can sign up for our online training platform, DDS Success. You can also attend our Art of Scheduling Productively Seminar that we present all over the US and Canada. And of course, if you need immediate help, call us at (800) 640-1140.

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