Front Office Systems

Scripting Strategies for Successful Scheduling

The strong systems you put in place will ensure your patients are receiving the best patient experience and the team is focusing on your business. Offering reassurance to patients, with consistent talking points, requires you to be calm, to speak slowly, and to maintain a warm personal connection. The information you share, and the manner in which you share it, will help foster trust strengthening patient relationships.

New Patient Calls Regarding PPO Plans

Suggested response when a new patient calls and asks, “Are you a preferred provider for _________?”

The first part of the answer should always address what we can do for the patient. By the time we have completed a large portion of our conversation telling the patient what we can do for them, there is a much greater chance we will retain the patient through the part of the conversation discussing why we are not a preferred provider.

Patient Question: “Do you accept Met Life Insurance?”
Response: “We do accept this insurance. We can provide your dentistry and submit claims to Met Life for you.”

Patient Question: “Are you a Preferred Provider for Met Life?”
Response: “We can bill Met Life for you, maximize your benefits available, and provide customer service for your claims. However, we are not set up to adjust off the difference in fees. This may or may not affect your co-pays.”

Response: “We are a non-restricted provider with MetLife. We work closely with MetLife, in fact, we have many patients with a similar plan to yours. We will work closely with you to maximize your benefits under your plan. We will provide you with an estimate prior to starting any dental treatment, so you won’t have any surprises. How’s that sound to you?”



Patient Arriving Late

When a patient arrives late for their appointment please don’t respond with, “Oh, that’s OK. Just have a seat and I’ll let them know you’re here.” We recommend you use verbiage letting them know we are concerned and hold them accountable with kindness and grace. Consider using something like, “We’re so glad you’re here. We were starting to get concerned. We had you scheduled for 3:00. Please have a seat and I will check with the clinical team to see how we will proceed.” Sometimes you can go ahead with the appointment, without completing everything originally on the schedule. This way, you can get back to running on time without keeping the next patient waiting.

Please remember, we train our patients how to treat our practice.

If we don’t ask for accountability, they will continue to cause challenges in your schedule. Please put this on your staff meeting agenda to discuss as a team how to handle late-arriving patients. Set guidelines and adhere to them. There may be a rare occasion where the patient has called and truly did have an unavoidable circumstance. However, you can’t make exceptions for all late arrivals or your schedule will continue to be challenged.



Confirming Appointments

To maximize the productivity of the schedule and provide ample time to fill a broken appointment, verify appointments two days in advance:

“Hello, this is _____ from Dr. _______ office. I am calling to verify your appointment with (name of their provider) on (day), (date) at (time). We have (amount of time) reserved just for you, and we look forward to seeing you. Please call if you have any questions regarding this appointment.”



Offering A Patient An Earlier Appointment

“Hi _________, this is _________ calling from Dr. _________ office. We have you scheduled for your (service) at (time) on (date) and we’re looking forward to seeing you. I have an opportunity to bring you in for (service) sooner on (date/time) and I want to give you first priority. What would work best for your schedule?”



If Patient Tries to Cancel An Existing Appointment

To minimize the number of short-notice cancellations, ask:

“Is there anything we can do to help you keep your appointment today?”



Missed Appointments

In order to best recover the schedule from a missed appointment, call patients five minutes past the scheduled appointment time. The team member expecting the patient should be the first choice to make the call.



Transitioning Patient from the Clinic – Front Office


“Dr. Smith recommended a crown on the upper right due to several fractures and a new cavity under the existing filling. He/she would like to see this scheduled in the next _______. Would you also please help schedule the next cleaning/maintenance appointment in (3/4/6 months).”

The hygienists should have already provided value for the next hygiene visit in the dental op. (See Building Value for the Next Hygiene Visit).



Outstanding Treatment Plans

“Hello, this is _____ from Dr. _______ office. I am calling to see if we can schedule the dental treatment that has not been completed. Upon review of your chart, I see you still have (procedures that have not been completed). Doctor _______ asked me to check in with you, he/she is concerned about letting this condition go too long. We are committed to your dental care and its impact on your overall health. Do you have any questions regarding this treatment or timing?”

“Do you prefer mornings or afternoons?”

If they bring up financial concerns, determine what specifically they are requesting. Is it the overall amount? Do they need additional information regarding a predetermination or remaining benefits available? Are they aware of the financial arrangements available at your office? Could they qualify for outside funding sources? Problem-solve with them, answering their questions and concerns. Then say:

“If we can find a way to make this financially feasible for you, are there any other concerns preventing you from scheduling treatment at this time?”

If they say “no” (there are no other concerns), then go ahead and work out the financials and get the appointment scheduled.

If they say “yes”, then it will be necessary to continue asking questions to get to the true reason why they are not scheduling.



Last Minute Cancellation

When a patient calls to cancel, rather than respond, “Oh, that’s OK. Just give us a call when it’s convenient for you to come in,” make every effort to help patients keep their appointment. The appointment is important for the patient’s health, as well as the health of your schedule.

We suggest asking, “Is there anything we can do to help you keep this appointment?” rather than assume the appointment is lost. It may be as simple as moving the appointment time up or down a few minutes, or reassuring the patient a common cold is no reason to cancel a dental appointment. Attempt to identify the real reason why the appointment time won’t work.

Ask questions to problem solve the patient’s barrier to the appointment. Sometimes if they have a co-pay for their visit and don’t have the money, they may give another reason – the bottom line is they don’t have the money. You may be able to offer some creative financing options to save the appointment if you can get the patient to discuss it with you.

Rather than ask, “Do you want to reschedule now?” or “Give us a call when you’re able to make an appointment,” state “Let’s reschedule your visit now.” In order to build value in appointments at your office, offer them another one farther out than the next day or two. If they can get right back in the schedule very quickly, it conveys it’s not important to keep their appointment.

Even if there is an appointment available earlier, don’t offer it at this time. We suggest offering them an appointment “for them,” 2-3 weeks away. Set the appointment and ask if they would want to come in sooner if you have an opening. If so, put them on your quick-call list. If you are unable to fill the opening with someone else, you can always call later in the day and offer them that appointment.

A patient who routinely cancels appointments, without notice, would be considered a “red patient.” Firmly and professionally state, “As you can understand we have many patients who would have liked this appointment and with this late notice we will be unable to fill the time. Let’s make sure the time we pick for your next appointment is one you are able to commit to.”

The only appropriate time to use the phrase regarding “48-hours notice” is when a patient actually calls to cancel at the last minute. The verbiage could be, “Please keep in mind for future visits we appreciate at least a 48-hour notice of any changes.” You are letting the patient know their behavior is not acceptable.

Remember, you train patients how to treat your practice.



Repeat Cancellations

“It looks like we are having a challenge finding a time in our schedule that works for you. What I would like to do is ask you to call us on a day you are available and see if we have had a change in our schedule.”

“Are you not going to schedule me?”

“As I am sure you can understand, without advance notice, we are unable to offer the time to another patient. Generally, we do not schedule patients in advance who continually have challenges making their appointments. Let’s see if you call us on a day you know will work is a good option.”



Cancellations (Non-Repeating)

“We’ve been looking forward to seeing you. Is there anything we can do to help you keep this appointment?”

Ask questions to problem solve the patient’s barrier to the appointment. For example, they may need to simply move it up or down by a few minutes or are concerned about their co-pay or coming in with a cold.



Patient Short-Notice Cancellation Call (Non-Repeating)

“I am very sorry to hear. We were looking forward to seeing you. Is there anything we can do to help you keep this appointment?”

Pause, listen, and problem-solve with the patient.

“Please keep in mind, for future visits, we appreciate at least a 48-hour notice of any changes. It allows us time to schedule patients who need to come in for treatment.”

Always end on an appreciative, positive note.

“We know this is not usual for you and that emergencies do happen. I have (two dates) at (times). Which works best for you?”


Patient Did Not Confirm Appointment

An effective confirmation system notifies patients of upcoming appointments through their preferred communication method – phone, email, or text. Confirm patients two weeks, three days, and two hours prior to their appointment. If at any time they confirm, the confirmation sequence should stop.

For practices who have reached scheduling capacity, a statement can be added to the confirmation:

“We have been unable to reach you to confirm your dental appointment with our hygienist, Sandy, on Thursday, Nov. 3rd at 9:00 am. Please call our office as soon as possible and confirm. If we do not hear from you by Tuesday, Nov. 1st, we will anticipate you may not be coming and cancel your appointment.”

If the patient shows up, although they did not confirm the appointment, plan to provide limited treatment such as an exam and x-rays and reschedule for the cleaning.



Moving Patients in the Hygiene Schedule

“We appreciate you pre-scheduled your hygiene visit when you were here last. I wanted to call you right away as we have had an unexpected change in our schedule and will not have a Hygienist available for your appointment on (date). I’d like to find another date that works well for you. (Offer two choices).”

Select a date to hold an appointment, even if it is not ideal, and offer an opportunity to call the patient if something closer to their preferred time becomes available.

“If you would like, I can add you to our concierge list and one of us will call if your preferable time becomes available.”

Ask them the best way to reach them, day of the week preferred, and how much notice they need. Put a note in their record for future reference.



Offering an Earlier Appointment

“Hi (patient name), this is (your name) calling from Dr. (name) office. We have you scheduled for your (service) at (time) on (date) and we’re looking forward to seeing you. I have an opening sooner on (date/time) and I want to give you first priority. What would work best for your schedule?”



Response to A Patient Who Does Not Want to Schedule Proposed Treatment

“Hello (name). How was your visit today?”

Pause, listen, and respond.

“I understand we need to schedule an appointment for (treatment). I can schedule you for (date/time) or (date/time). What would work best for your schedule?”

Patient: “I’m not scheduling now. I need to think about it.”

Response: “Ok. Do you have any particular questions?” (Pause and listen.)

Response: “In order for me to be clear on what you’re considering, let me ask – is it the specific treatment?” (Pause and listen.)

If the patient’s concern is about treatment, address it.

If the patient’s concern is not about treatment, an appropriate follow-up question is:

“Can you share your hesitation to schedule; I may be able to help.”

Ask politely but directly if anxiety or cost is the concern and offer options.



Restorative Treatment Objection

Patient: “The picture doesn’t look so bad to me. Are you sure I need a crown to replace the filling?”

Response: “Mrs. Jones, further breakdown isn’t a matter of if – it’s a matter of when. It’s your choice, of course, when and if you choose to do something. My job is to show you, inform you, and take care of you. My responsibility is to educate patients on the potential health consequences and expenses of inaction.”




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