Friday, February 29, 2008


Today a patient who has already cancelled or failed 2 appointments at the college of dentistry (a failure is a no-show without any warning) since he started his root canal treatment almost 2 months ago exhibited very poor manners. He called in this morning to say he was on his way, then didn't come. Then he called and said he would be in after lunch, and then a half hour late called to say he would be in at 2 for his 1:00 patient. I waited around for 70 minutes before I decided he probably wasn't coming. What a waste of time. He never came but said he would "try to come in on Monday." Rude!

Dental appointments aren't like dropping by to pick up your dry cleaning! The dentist or student is waiting on the patient to come. I've never heard of a dental appointment being a spur of the moment thing, like renting a movie or even getting your haircut. We may operate similarly to a hair school in that we are altering parts of your body with sharp instruments at a reduced fee. But, you can't just "see if you'll make it in" or call and say you are "on your way" and then not show for a dental appointment. We aren't a walk-in clinic.

This patient is often necessary to fulfill requirments that must be met for the education to be complete. Not coming to the appointment means that someone else who has a real dental emergency may have to wait weeks for an opening, that the student is out their requirement or an opportunity with another patient, and it costs the school quite a bit of money to re-sterilize equipment and throw out unused paper products, lidocaine cartridges, etc. If we continually get cancelling patients, we may have to repeat another portion of the school year. That can cost thousands to the student and the school! I'm not worried at this point but just cannot understand how you could think that was acceptable behavior.

I could have been doing a root canal on someone else or at least working on lab work that I already have so much of with only 2 patients. Instead, I wasted over an hour so I would be ready when he came. I didn't want him to wait on me. So much for good manners! And, I still have not fulfilled any of my requirments.

I guess someone else can try on Monday when he tries so hard to get in. What does that mean, anyway? "If I can roll out of bed I may be in?"


Ameloblast said...

Unfortunately patients like that exist when you're out in private practice too.

Fortunately, then you'll have more tools at your disposal to deal with them effectively.

I remember how stressful it was for me in school to get all of my requirements completed on time...

Anonymous said...

Most medical and dental offices now charge you for the appointment even if you do not make it and do not cancel with at least a 24 hour notice. I think that with the valuable service the school provides...affordable dentistry to those that could not otherwise afford it, the school should at the least, be able to say that they charge for no-shows. These inconsiderate no-shows should not be allowed to make a follow-up appt until their no-show charge is paid. This could weed out those ungrateful patients that probably can afford normal dental work anyway, leaving more space and opportunity for those that really need the services that you and your fellow students provide. I don't think that your services compare to beauty school. Dental health is a "quality of life" issue. Maybe people in dental schools locations take the services for granted. Being in an area that does not afford that type of service and savings on this type of "qualitly of life" opportunity, this all sounds pretty "spoiled american" to me.

Erin said...

That's a good idea. I wonder if we could get that to would probably cost more though to send all of those people to collections for their unpaid no-show bills! Somehow I bet the failure to pay people would be one and the same as the failure to show up people.

Ameloblast said...

The point is not to try to make money from them not showing up. We don't send people to collections for their no-show fee.

Charging a no-show fee is an effective way of eliminating the problem from your practice. People will either return and pay the fee if they value your service, or they'll go elsewhere. Either way is a win-win for you.