Appointment Etiquette

Written by Heather Siler

The world of dentistry revolves around appointments which is great until something occurs that throws off the schedule. It happens inevitably, and when it does, is it acceptable to move a patient’s appointment? That depends on some very important guidelines which include proper training, communication, and follow through to ensure that the schedule flows properly and at maximum efficiency without offending and inconveniencing patients.

First of all, have a scheduling policy and make sure the entire team understands and follows it methodically. Most of the time, the front office will be in charge of appointments, but it’s a good idea to have the entire team on board. The schedulers should have a good understanding of how appointments work and how to schedule to maximize production while running on time. If the scheduling is done properly in the first place, moving appointments will be kept to a minimum.

Second, when scheduling patients initially, know what to say and how to say it so that if changing the appointment is necessary at a later date, it will be simpler. Ask the patient if it’s permissible to contact them regarding their appointment and the best way for them to be reached (phone, text, email). Explain that you may contact them as the appointment gets closer if it’s found that there’s a more convenient time for their schedule.

Third, keep detailed notes concerning any conversations with the patient about an appointment change. It’s also prudent to indicate if the patient mentions any days or times that are off limits. Keeping detailed records assures that unnecessary calls aren’t made which may irritate the patient. Correspondence should include information such as who called, when the call was made, and what appointment was offered. If it’s necessary to leave a message,  it’s imperative that the details are documented and that everyone is on the same page. For example, if you leave a message, make sure that the patient understands that they must contact the office regardless or the original appointment time will remain unchanged.

Fourth, verify that the detailed notes are read by whoever is phoning the patient. Save yourself embarrassment by knowing what the patient likes relevant to appointment days and times. Don’t tell them that you are calling because someone canceled last-minute because it’s negative. Tell them that you remember them saying that they prefer morning appointments and that you happen to have a morning opening. Saying something like this shows the patient that you are thinking of them and looking out for them as well.

Finally, don’t move the patient’s appointment more than once. Never continue to call patients to move their appointment. Also, if a patient does allow you to move their appointment, make a note of it and thank them when they arrive at the office.