Improve Patient Communications To Minimize Cancellations and No-Shows

Melissa LuVisi
October 1, 2019 | 4 min read


Last-minute cancellations or no-shows are a money and resource drain for dental practices. Not only will you be unable to generate revenue from the time you have set aside for the patients but patient satisfaction will also be impacted because they can’t get the care they need.

Even though you can’t completely eliminate these occurrences, you can proactively keep them to a minimum.

How To Minimize Last-Minute Cancellations and No-Shows For Your Dental Practice

The challenge for many dental practices is the cost associated with managing patient scheduling -- e.g., calling patients to remind them of an upcoming appointment. Thankfully, by leveraging technologies available on dental practice management platforms, you can improve patient communications without adding cost.

Here’s how you can minimize cancellations and no-shows:

  • Send reminders in the patients’ preferred method of communication. While some people still prefer an appointment reminder via phone, many are more likely to pay attention if the message is sent via text or email. Ask patients to select their preferred method of communication to make sure they get the appointment reminders.
  • Set up multiple reminders to ensure that the appointment stays top of mind. You can also request patients to confirm by replying to the email or text message or through your scheduling application so they’re more committed to attending the appointment.
  • Include the reasons for the follow-up visits in your reminders so patients understand the importance of keeping the appointments. This will help increase the transparency of the patient experience and help you provide better patient care.
  • Make it easy for patients to cancel or reschedule appointments in the appointment reminders, e.g., by providing a link in the text or email to your online scheduling system to streamline the process while reducing the workload of your front-desk staff.
  • Have new patients fill out paperwork ahead of time via online eForms. Not only will it streamline the check-in experience but the patients will also be more committed since they have already invested the time and effort to submit the information.
  • Improve the patient experience by reducing wait time so coming to your office becomes less of a hassle. Also, if you’re running late, give patients a call so they don’t have to sit around and wait.
  • Encourage patients to pre-pay for the next appointment (e.g., by offering a discount) to increase their commitment and minimize no-shows. 
  • Improve patient engagement and satisfaction through proactive communications, such as two-way texting and patient reviews, since engaged and informed patients are more likely to show up for their appointments.
  • Follow up immediately after a cancellation or a no-show to prompt patients to reschedule. You can use a dental practice management software that identifies incomplete treatment to help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks while clearly communicating the reasons for the follow-up so you can improve patient care and outcomes.
  • Implement and clearly communicate a cancellation policy and have patients read and sign an eForm so it’s recorded in your system. For example, you can charge a nominal fee (e.g., $30-$40) for last-minute cancellations or no-shows. The policy should also communicate that missed treatments are detrimental to patient care and have patients commit to a reasonable notification period to reschedule or cancel (e.g., 48 hours.)
  • Use data analytics to identify “problem patients” that have a tendency to miss appointments chronically. In fact, 60% of missed appointments come from just 10% of the patient base for many medical practices. When you find out who these patients are, you can implement a stricter no-show policy, send out additional reminders, or have your staff call them personally to increase the likelihood that they’ll attend the appointments. You can use a dental practice management software with a patient engagement component to keep track so you can better manage relationships with these patients.
  • Manage your own schedule effectively using an online booking system to minimize waiting time or the need to reschedule patients. When you respect your patients’ time, they’re more likely to respect yours.


Improving patient communication and streamlining the patient experience can help you reduce last-minute cancellations that lower your productivity, impact your bottom line, and impact the quality of patient care and patient satisfaction.

To make sure you’re sending out appointment reminders in a timely manner and engaging patients in their preferred methods of communication without putting a strain on your staff’s workload, you can leverage a dental practice management platform that integrates dental EHR with a patient engagement component, such as tab32, so you can deliver the most relevant information to patients in the right place and at the right time to optimize results.

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