Sliding the Schedule

Okay, now that we’re all prepared with understanding and tools, let’s start sliding your schedule! Here are the eight steps you must take in a methodical manner when you end up with a cancellation or a no-show.

1. This may be obvious, but it is still worth stating as the first step. If you discover that someone has no-showed, immediately find out if there are any patients in the office physically who have arrived early and slide them right up into the no-show time slot. 

2. Now begin contacting the next few patients on the schedule who've indicated that they are able to come in earlier. Give them the option to come in at this earlier time. You should be able to slide at least a few people forward at least by a couple of exam slots, creating an opening as far forward in the day as possible. Now you have some time to start calling patients who are scheduled on future days.

3. This is where you pull out your courtesy list and start calling on it now!

4. Next, you'll review patients on the schedule (but not on the courtesy list) who are set up for appointments at the same time and day of the week and see if they are able to come in earlier this week.  Make a list and make your calls and/or texts off this list.

5. Use the following wording for your phone calls or something similar to this and always present this as an option and convenience for the patient: “Hi Bess, hey Jeff has had a change in his schedule this afternoon and we actually have an appointment open at 3 o'clock today! We’ve got you scheduled for next Tuesday at 3, so I thought I’d see if you’d like to come in today instead. Would that work for you?” However the patient responds is fine. Be sure to make a note in their record that you contacted them, so they don’t get other calls from other team members as well. The idea here is that we are strategically sliding scheduled patients forward as much as possible. This creates an opening as far out as possible, again giving you more time to fill it!

6. If you've not been able to fill today’s or the later openings you’ve created by sliding the schedule, you can begin calling your cancellation list patients.  These are the established patients who have cancelled an appointment within the last 12 months and have not yet rescheduled. Do not call new patients who've cancelled—they have probably chosen to go somewhere else and this effort is not worth your time. Some software's actually allow you to pull this cancellation list, but not all. Please check with your supervisor to see if this is possible with your practice management software.

7. You may consider posting such openings at this time via social media (Facebook for instance) if that is appropriate for your office.

8. Finally, if you still have openings within the next week or two after all of these efforts, you can begin doing extra recall phone calls, as we discussed in our patient retention lessons. Just be careful not to bother the same patients with multiple attempts to get them to schedule! We don’t want to become an annoyance to them.