Dentist Hours: Many Stay Open into the Evening

Dentist schedules: 55% are open lateJust over half (55%) of practices offer evening hours, and 37% let patients make weekend appointments, this survey found. Mondays are the busiest day of the week for 1 in 3 practices.

Many dental practices are closed on Fridays. “On Friday, if the weather was nice, patients always cancelled,” said one dentist. “We work Tuesday evenings instead. The staff and I love 3-day weekends. Nice quality of life. I highly recommend it.”

But for some, the economic reality is a harsh wake-up. “With the new economy, I will need to start opening on Fridays and take what I can get,” said another dentist. “Going broke in Alaska!”

If a patients wants or needs evening and weekend hours… and you don’t offer them… then that patient will find a dentist who does.

Here are some comments from dentists:

  • “Early morning hours are good.” (Connecticut dentist)
  • “Patients like afternoon hours.” (Athens Greece dentist)
  • “Evenings are popular.” (Maryland pediatric dentist)
  • “Saturday morning and early afternoon appointments are very popular with our patient population.” (Ohio prosthodontist)
  • “Friday is a highly productive day because I see only high production cases without all of the small procedures interrupting my case.”

Read more – Dentist Schedules: Time Management Meets Dental Management

Dental Management Survey: How Do You Handle Missed Appointments?

Charging for missed dental apointmentsWhen patients miss appointments, it affects dental practice revenue.

If it happens too often, it can turn into a dental practice management nightmare.

“In this day and age with e-mail, texting, cell phones, answering machines, Smile Reminders, etc., etc. There is no excuse for people to not show up for their dental or medical appointments or call to let the offices know they are running late or can’t make it. Its just pure laziness or lack of common courtesy.” Ohio prosthodontist

There are practice management tactics dentists can use to keep this problem from getting out of hand and ruining their practice. But do dentists use them?

In this dental survey, we report on how dentists handle patients who don’t show up.

Fees for missing dental appointments

When asked if they charge patients for missed appointments, 67% of our survey respondents said Yes – 28% charge a fee after the second missed appointment; 39% after the third miss.

One-third of our surveyed dentists said they don’t charge a penalty fee at all.

Chart: Do dentists charge for missed appointments?

Dentists charged patients between $25 and $100 for missing an appointment, with a $50 fee the most common.

“Our policy is a $50.00 no show charge after your 3rd no show appointment. We have done this only a few times. In the past when we tried it our patients threw a fit and a lot of times the charge was removed. How do we know if patient has a real emergency or creates an excuse? We try to emphasis that these are important appointments.” Missouri dentist

“We tried have chronic offenders pay a $50 booking fee before scheduling, this would be applied to the day’s fees or forfeited if the patient failed to show up. However the front desk staff was not consistent in enforcing it ON THE SAME PATIENT!!!” North Carolina dentist

Letting go of patients who miss too many dental appointments

Dentists don’t like to lose patients, under any circumstance.

But 68% of dentists in our survey said they will ‘fire’ patients who miss too many appointment: 5% after a patient misses 2 appointments; 37% after 3 misses; and 26% only after 4 or more misses.

Some dentists said they will never ‘fire’ a patient (5%), and 27% said it rarely, if ever, happens.

Chart: Do dentists 'fire' patients who miss appointments?

“Try to dismiss patient after 2 no-shows, but the situation can vary depending on the particular relationship of the patient with the practice.” Canadian dentist

“I’d really love to find something that works– While most of our patients come regularly, it seems that in the past years, it is more challenging to keep patients compliant with appointments. If we charge, we just get patients mad and they leave with the charge on the books.” California dentist

“Although I don’t charge or fire patients for missed appointments it seems to be a repeating problem and I lose a lot of potential income; and the time can never be recouped.” Texas pediatric dentist

Here are a few dental management policy recommendations that are working:

“We try to figure out what’s getting in the way of their keeping [appointments], and if problems continue, we either put them on a “quick call” list, have them financially guarantee a reserved appt, or dismiss them.” New Hampshire dentist

“It is difficult to collect missed appointment fees. We just give them 3 chances and then will not make another appointment unless there is one available the day they call. If they miss one of those, they are fired for good.” Texas dentist

“If you charge them, they will walk rather than pay. So for unreliable patients, demand a “deposit” before putting them on the books. Tell them they will forfeit it if they miss, and have to pay another deposit. I have never had a patient miss an appointment when they had a $75 deposit on the line.” Georgia general dentist

“A missed appointment cannot be rescheduled within 2 weeks of the rescheduling call. This serves as a reminder that missing an appointment does affect other people besides the patient, allows time to schedule other patients in more convenient time slots and serves as a minor ‘penalty’ for missed appointments. If a patient misses 2-3 appointments, they are not permitted to schedule further than 1 day in advance to limit the amount of forgetting appointments. Patients missing further appointments are dismissed from the practice at the doctor’s discretion.” Indiana dentist

“We charge the people that we want to leave the practice.” Minnesota dentist

What’s your dental practice management policy for patients who miss appointments?

Dentist Annual Fee Increases: Dental Management

Dentist schedules: 55% are open lateDentist annual fee increases aren’t universal in a recession economy, suggests this survey. While half of dentists (54%) report that they have raised fees in the past year, it’s been over a year since their last fee increase for the other half (44%). And 2% have even lowered their dental fees.

Those who did raise fees did it by an average of 4.5%. “Staff realized how important it was and influenced me!” said one dentist. “I was hesitant at this time, but they insisted because of how expenses are increasing, etc, not because they want raises. They know the difficulties of today running a practice.”

It’s worth noting that not one pediatric dentist in this survey said they had raised fees in the past 12 months. “I’m holding fees steady this year. Economy and all,” said one children’s dentist.

Dental consultants tell dentists they should be raising dental fees each and every year as a part of their dental management. Here are some comments from dentists on the topic:

  • “I’ve had patients leaving to find a network dentist for a few dollars savings. A fee increase does not seem wise or humane.” (Texas dentist)
  • “In a down market, reducing fees can offer a competitive advantage.” (California periodontist)
  • “Don’t increase across the board. Some up, some the same.” (Periodontist)
  • “Although we have raised our default fees, my fees are primarily based on the complexity and difficulty of the case.” (Dental implant dentist)
  • “Will be meeting soon to review our costs and the economic situation.” (North Carolina oral surgeon)
  • “This year I raised them 5%, similar last year The demand for my services is high.” (West Virginia TMJ dentist)
  • “Difficult to raise dental fees during these difficult economic times.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “Once per year we increase fees at least 3-4% to keep up with annual inflation. A few fees are increasing more than 4%, like gold dental crown fees.” (Ohio prosthodontist)
  • “We kept the basic services the same (prophys etc) but raised the other fees. We find that patients do not notice the increase unless we increase the prophy and exam fees.” (California dentist)
  • “Since some of our co-pays are based on a percentage of our registered fees, we had to increase our fees.” (New Jersey dentist)

Read more – Dental Management: Annual Dental Fee Increase

Dental Survey: Dentists Still Cautious About Raising Fees

Dentists are cautious about raising feesAs small business owners, dentists know that it’s good dental management to raise fees on a regular basis…if their market supports it.

“It makes sense to raise your fees by at least the local or regional cost of living increase (inflation %) to keep up with that. Around here it is currently about 3% per year.” Ohio prosthodontist

In this survey, we asked dentists how long its been since they raised their fees.

In some regions, the economy is rallying enough that dentists have been able to increase rates.

Within the past year, 27% of the dentists in our survey have raised their fees; and 13% have done so within the past 6 months.

“I am considering it as the economy looks more hopeful and because prices are going up all over…and I have to pay my own bills.” Texas dentist

However, 60% of our dentists have not increased fees within the past 2 years…or longer:

It’s been more than 3 years since 40% of our dentists raised their fees.

“Still pretty shy about raising fees as often as we used to, due to the weak economy and patients struggling fnancially.” Illinois dentist

And 20% of our responding doctors haven’t raised their fees in more than 5 years.

“Just can’t pull the trigger since the recession killed us.” New York dentist

“With the insurance companies basically setting the fees, raising fees too often only hurts the patients who do not have insurance.” Missouri dentist

How is your local economy doing? When was the last time you raised your dental fees?

Dentist Appointments: No-Shows Must Pay Anyway

Dentist missed appointment feesMissed dentist appointment fees have recently made headlines, with one Canadian man complaining loudly about a $400 cancellation charge.

Many dentists charge patients missed appointment fees. Typically, these fees tend to be about $25-50 per appointment. But there’s a lot more variation than you might expect!

A recent survey we conducted showed that an average of 1 in 10 patients is a no-show. That’s a 10% reduction in dental practice profitability, and a serious dental management issue.

The $400 missed appointment fee

Roland Ikporo’s son got a toothache last month, but their family dentist was closed. So he took his son instead to Calgary’s Expressions Dental clinic.

The dentist there conducted an exam and took x-rays at a cost of $150. He told Ikporo that his son needed 4 teeth removed right away. So Ikporo made another appointment for two days later.

But within an hour, Ikporo cancelled the appointment, realizing that his general dentist would be cheaper. (While Expressions Dental would charge $1,700 to remove the four teeth, the dental work was only $800 from their regular dentist.)

Though called the dentist office to cancel the appointment less than an hour after he made it, his Visa was billed an additional $400 missed dentist appointment fee.

Ikporo had in fact signed a consent form that explained the clinic’s cancellation policy: give 72 hours notice or be charged $200 per hour of missed appointment time. So by booking an appointment less than 3 days in the future, Ikporo had no ability to cancel.

Angry, Ikporo has registered a complaint with the Alberta Dental Association and College. They are now investigating.

Just an observation: Even if he pays the $400 fee, Ikporo will still have saved money by having his family dentist perform the extractions… The general dentist‘s $800 fee plus the $400 cancellation charge is still significantly less than the $1,700 quoted by the dental clinic.

What’s your policy?

Many dentists find that a $20 cancellation charge just doesn’t get the job done. How does your practice handle no-shows?

Read more: Father angry over $400 dentist cancellation charge

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