As an experienced dental marketing agency, our team at Local Fresh understands just how difficult the summer can be for many private practice owners.
Summers tend to feature more no-shows and have a higher appointment cancelation rate, according to a new study. The researchers involved in the study hope their work will help to create better solutions for practices that target those patients most likely not to keep their appointments.
To identify the factors that most heavily influence cancellation and no-show rates, researchers used practice-based population health data (PBPH) and examined data from a deep pool of dental appointments for wide cross section of patient types.
Researchers were successfully able to identify multiple factors that dramatically impact the likelihood that a patient will keep an appointment.
The results of the study were recently published in the journal Public Health.
Population Health Data
Late cancelations and no-shows have a significant impact on dental practices of every size. Chair time is the driving factor for improving revenue, making the loss of this time an appealing area for research.
While previous studies have examined correlations between socioeconomic and demographic factors and missed appointments, researchers saw a chance to use PBPH, which had not previously been used to help identify those types of patients most likely to miss their appointments.
Researchers began their study by collecting data from the dental clinic system of a large university in the U.S. The collected data consisted of more than 180,000 appointments for almost 46,000 patients and included demographic information, such as sex and age, as well information on the appointment itself, such as date and length.
The data was then examined to determine whether certain factors were linked to a higher no-show or appointment cancelation rate.
Researchers were able to identify seven areas that significantly impacted whether a patient kept their appointment and described the five most compelling: appointment length, time of year, appointment time, patient age, and type of insurance.
The amount of time an appointment was scheduled to take was shown to have a significant impact on both no-shows and cancellations.
Appointments schedule to take longer than an hour were more likely to be canceled when compared to shorter appointment times. Researchers found that 30 percent of appointments scheduled to take longer than 2 hours were canceled.
In terms of no-shows, shorter appointment times scheduled to last less than an hour were more likely to be abandoned when compared to longer appointment times. Roughly 10 percent of appointments under an hour in duration were no-shows, according to researchers.
Time of Year
Time of year was also a significant factor in cancellation and no-show rates. While the summer may seem like the toughest times to keep patient appointments, the study actually found that winter months had the lowest attendance rate with just 69 percent of appointments kept and the highest cancellation rate with nearly 25 percent of appointments canceled.
The summer months were, however, shown to have the highest rate of no-shows. During the hottest months of the year – August and September – nearly 7 percent of patients failed to show up at their scheduled times.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that appointments scheduled during the early morning were more likely to suffer no-shows, while late afternoon and early evening appointments were more likely to be canceled.
Patients were more likely to no-show for an appointment scheduled between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. when compared to appointments later in the day. However, appointments scheduled after 10 a.m. were more likely to be canceled when compared to earlier appointment times.
In most cases, the study found that the older the patient the less likely they were to miss a scheduled appointment. Patients over the age of 65 were less likely to either miss or cancel an appointment when compared to adults between the ages of 26 to 64. Conversely, appointments scheduled for patients 10 and under were more likely to suffer from a cancelation or a no-show when compared to appointments for adults.
Adolescents and young adults fell between the other two groups. Adults between the ages of 18 to 25 were less likely to cancel an appointment when compared to older adults, but they were more likely to be no-shows. This trend was actually reversed in adolescents between the ages of 11 to 17, who were more likely to cancel than no-show.
Type of Insurance
Finally, as similar studies have found, the type of insurance a patient carries dramatically influences cancellation and no-show rates. Uninsured and Medicaid patients were both far more likely to no-show or cancel an appointment when compared to patients with private insurance.
Understanding the Data
Researchers were struck that the trends were occasionally inverted for no-show and canceled appointments. Researchers believed their findings may suggest that different approaches are needed to keep patients from missing appointments.
“We also found among certain categories, canceled and failed appointments followed distinct or even opposite patterns, suggesting that different phychological issues underpin these appointment-keeping behaviors, and suggest that different types of preventive measure could be designed for patients at risk for each,” wrote the research team.
The model used in the study was limited by the available data, which failed to include some key socioeconomic and demographic factors known to be linked with appointment attendance, including distance from the practice and income. Researchers also noted that the model used in the study only explained partial variance for each determining factor. Despite these limitations, however, researchers still believe their findings can be useful in helping dental practices improve appointment retention rates.
As an experienced dental marketing agency, our team at Local Fresh can help your practice better track these appointment retention factors so you can identify those times most likely to open up in your schedule.
Improving chair time retention rates is an important part of helping any practice grow. Click here to find out more about how Local Fresh can help your private dental practice and why we should be your dental marketing agency.