Staying Proactive when a Patient Cancels an Appointment

how to handle appointment cancellation

how to handle appointment cancellationIf one thing is certain, we know that patients cancel appointments from time to time. This unexpected block of time can leave your mind wondering how to handle the situation, what will your staff do with their time, or how it may affect your bottom line. The question should be how could I help my team remain proactive when these instances occur?

It is important to understand how a cancelation will affect your bottom line, especially if you are a new and growing practice or one that relies mostly on insurance payments. You are still paying your assistants and hygienists when a patient cancels, although you are not bringing anything in to offset those costs. Remember Benjamin Franklin once said, “lost time is never found again.” So make the best of it!

Here are some ideas on how best to use these downtimes:

Keep a Call List

Your front desk should have a call list at all times. These are people who may call in and ask for an overdue appointment and insist on coming in right away. While there may be days when you can make this happen, it may not always be the case. Instead, you can have your front desk manager put these individuals on a call list while also scheduling them for the next available appointment. This way, when a patient cancels, the call list can be used as means of getting a patient in sooner and filling the empty appointment spot.

You could also have the front desk representative call other people on the schedule for the week to see if they are available or willing to come in earlier. Keep in mind that this can sometimes be a hit or miss approach but is definitely worth exploring. What do you do if you just can’t seem to fill that spot on your schedule?

Team Building

Team building exercises should be part of your routine, but you could use these times when patients cancel as an opportunity to work in a team-building exercise. Always keep ideas for these exercises so that you have something to go to in an instant. Choose exercises that will benefit you and your team. The goal is to help your team bond but also to build trust, improve productivity, and motivation.


If you have a patient that cancels, you could use this time to hone in on training as a team or even one-on-one. As the dentist, you work closely with your dental assistants, and it is imperative that your assistants know exactly what to expect from you, as well as you from them. Developing a skill set that works for you both during each procedure will help make the day go smoother, and provide better results for your patients. You do not have to have a formal training session planned for this block of time, but even just discussing ways to improve on certain procedures could be enough to improve skills and help educate your assistants.

There are several ways that you can make the best use of your time, and that of your team, by filling in these gaps with something positive. If you are looking for ways to reduce your cancelations, develop team building exercises or training, Bryant Consultants can help. Remember to make the best use of your time, too, and avoid retreating back to your office.

At Bryant Consultants, we can use our consulting services to help you realize your vision, establish goals, and set processes in place to evolve your practice into a state-of-the-art dental practice. Contact us by calling (877) 768-4799.

We provide consultation, training, and coaching to help improve the operations of your practice so that you can provide exceptional results to your patients. No office is out of reach for us; we will even come to you!