Fail to attends (FTAs) are the scourge of any service provider. An empty chair is an unwelcome sight for every dental practice owner, and particularly so at this time, when services are already limited due to COVID restrictions. 

FTAs matter 

COVID-19 has heightened financial awareness amongst dentists, who are only too well aware of the true cost of an empty chair. For those within the NHS, missed appointments can have a significant impact on the practice’s ability to fulfil UDA contracts. This has been particularly keenly felt in the last couple of months, with missed appointments rising during the third national lockdown, adding even more stress for NHS dentists already struggling to reach the 45% target. The private sector is also not immune to the problem of FTAs and although external targets are not the challenge here, an unexpected gap in the appointment book, which cannot be filled is just as frustrating.

A quick reminder

The most effective way of reducing FTAs is by using reminders. Most of us would admit that we need a little reminder every now and again. In dentistry, reminders are more than just a courtesy to help a patient’s memory, they play an important role in ensuring patients keep up their oral health. Encouraging regular attendance is a tangible way of showing patients that you always have their best interest at heart.

Reminders should be sent to patients who already have an appointment booked encouraging them to attend or cancel in good time. A reminder system can be easily integrated into everyday working practice, helping to prevent FTAs from happening in the first place and having a positive impact on chairtime usage, profitability and patients’ perceptions.

 Which type of reminder?

Reminders can be communicated in a number of ways. Software of Excellence research1 found that text messages are the most popular reminder method amongst dentists  (78.6%). This makes sense since UK adults check their phones on average once every twelve minutes2. Phone calls remain a popular option but expensive option, when taking into consideration the cost of each call, often to a mobile number, and the amount of time required from front desk staff. In contrast, trusting your reminders to an automated system using your dental software, saves time and money, returning better results and leaving your reception team free to deal with patients face-to-face.

A structured reminder schedule helps minimise FTAs for 6-monthly check up patients. Practices following a pattern of sending an email at 20 days, an email at 7 days and a text at 2 days have reduced FTAs from the average of 4.3% to 2.5%. If this is combined with an automated text reply system, which mentally commits the patient to the appointment, results improve even further, taking FTAs to 1.2%3.

The bottom line

Reminders are a vital tool in reducing white space, making them an important business tool. Reminders also play a crucial role in ensuring patients attend regularly and have a positive impact in how patients think about you as a healthcare provider. Patients have come to rely on reminders and this simple act is one that really shows you care.

Our team can help you implement a simple, cost effective and fully integrated reminder system. We can help you build a plan that will optimise your efficiency, save time and increase patient loyalty. Get in touch to find out more.


1, 3, . Software of Excellence Utilisation Whitepaper 2015


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