Article Date: 5/1/2007

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GARY GERBER, O.D.

Bolster Those Confirmation Calls
Every office will have no-shows, but you can minimize their impact.

Raise your hand if this has happened to you: You have a family of three booked on your busiest day of the week. You confirm their appointments the night before, but lo and behold, they don’t show-up. Is your hand up? If not, you’re either not practicing, or you’re lying.
Unfortunately, “no-shows” are a part of life for every practicing O.D.; so is trying to minimize them and their impact on your practice.
Keep in mind that no matter how diligent you are, you will have no-shows. In fact, our client data show a 5% no-show rate occurs in most optometric markets. Even the best-intentioned patient has emergencies and memory lapses. If you’re in this 5% range, you’ve got pretty good control of your appointing process. If not, here are some things you can to do help.

Confirmation calls (that actually get made)
Hopefully, the idea of making a confirmation call or sending an e-mail in advance of an appointment isn’t new to you. However, if you delegate recalls to your staff, they might not get done with the diligence and frequency you’d prefer. While your staff might not intentionally try to torpedo your appointment scheduler, there is a disincentive for them to keep your appointment book full. After all, if your staff confirms another appointment and that patient shows up, it’s more work for them at usually the same pay. For this reason, our on-site consultants say confirmation calls are relegated to the “I’ll get to it later” pile. Unfortunately, closing time often rolls around before they do.
To bolster the number of confirmation calls, we recommend two techniques. First, remind patients at the close of their appointment call that you’ll call again to confirm the appointment. Also, software systems are available to make the calls for you. These systems continue to call patients until they reach them, or if you wish, leave a message. The point here: Every patient is called every time.

Alternative incentives
Another technique some O.D.s use to reduce no shows is to institute a charge for missed appointments. In most cases, our company advocates against this, as it typically creates bad will, which ends up being more expensive than the original problem. Plus, this is a reactive, vs. proactive solution.
A more proactive solution would be to use the airlines’ approach and carefully track those days and times that tend to have the highest no-show rates. For example, it might not be patients, perse causing your problem, but certain appointment clusters that are less favorable to all patients. So if you track a high number of noshows on Saturday mornings, consider over-booking those slots. If you normally schedule two patients per hour, consider scheduling five every two hours, which is only a 20% increase.

Habitual offenders
We’re often asked how to handle chronic no-show offenders. Our advice: Make their problem your solution. It’s not good business to turn patients away. Instead, let them know that they’re welcome to come to your office at any time, without an appointment. You just request that they call first to check on the length of the wait. This way, they won’t be pinned down to a firm time that they historically won’t keep anyway.

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRAC TICE.COM, OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.



Optometric Management, Issue: May 2007