Standardized Sequence for Handling Requests to Break or Cancel an Appointment
When you are speaking to a patient or someone who calls for a patient and they want to break an appointment, there are certain steps to follow.
- The first step is to get the person on the telephone that has the appointment or an adult, if the patient is a child.
- Use your own verbiage and show surprise and/or disappointment by using pauses and voice inflection. Example: “Oh!...My!...”, “Umm!...”, “Oh No!...”, “Uh…!”.
- Ask what is keeping them from being at the appointment. “Uh!... Gee!... What’s the problem?” Say it so they can tell you are disappointed. If they are sick, ask them in a caring voice, what is wrong.
If you can tell they have a legitimate excuse, like they just had a car wreck, had to go to the emergency room last night for chest pains and are confined to bed, or some such excuse, wish them well and change their appointment.
Other than a dire emergency as stated above, most all of those who call in can be gotten in for their appointments by doing the following:
Show surprise and disappointment using pauses and your voice inflection.
- Listen to their excuse, such as I am really tied up at work, etc., etc.
- Acknowledge them.
- Work out a handling for the problem.
- Rekindle or reiterate what their appointment is for: abscessed tooth, spreading infection, cavities which are getting larger, etc., etc.
- Make them feel a little guilty – we have over an hour marked off for you and you really need to get ____ (abscessed tooth, spreading infection, cavities which are getting larger, etc.) taken care of.
Usually with general excuses, you can get them to keep the appointment; especially if we do not make it easy for them to cancel.
If they have a really legitimate excuse, THANK THEM FOR LETTING US KNOW IN ADVANCE. ALWAYS MAKE THE PATIENT RIGHT. NEVER sound like you are scolding them! Write the details in the patient’s record [computer or physical chart] along with the amount of time for the appointment that was lost.