Habitually Late Patient? No Thank You!

Written by Heather Siler

Patients may be running a little late from time to time and that can be overlooked. Repeat offenders, however, can make office life pretty unbearable. You know the patients of which I’m referring. They are the ones that when you see their name on the schedule, you begin taking bets on just how late they’ll be or if they show up at all.

Running on time is paramount in any office, but in dental offices, the entire world revolves around the schedule, and one misstep can cause a snowball effect of disaster and you can’t recover. So, what can be done to finally get these patients on the same page and stop causing you to run behind, thus having to feel the wrath of each subsequent patient?

First of all, you should incorporate a form which each patient must sign. This document will be committed to a late or no-show policy for your office. It will describe policies regarding showing up on time or not arriving for the appointment and the consequences of each. The form should include that the practice respects the patient’s time and the patient should return this respect.

The document should clearly outline the consequences of a no-show such as a fee if they don’t indeed arrive but also a fee in they cancel within 24 hours of their appointment. If the patient does actually arrive late, more than 10-15 minutes, explain that they may not be seen at all or that treatment may be extremely limited.

If you do provide treatment when the patient is more than 15 minutes late, the treatment should not include a prophy. The appointment should be records (Xrays, Charting, and Doctor’s exam) only. If you perform a prophylaxis, the patient is likely not to return for the records portion of the appointment.

Once this policy is written and signed, it must be strictly adhered to. There’s no saying, “it’s OK this one time”. Although it may be uncomfortable at first, it’s imperative to get the policy written, signed, and Implemented to save time and missed appointment time.