It is not uncommon to hear people talk about the health of their practices by confidently stating how far they are “booked out.” How long it takes for a patient to get an appointment is often a statement of practice wellness.
A filled appointment book is comforting; it gives assurances that the practice will have similar success in the future as it has enjoyed in the past. We have become convinced that filling our appointment books should be our primary goal, and everything else will take care of itself—and it has worked.
Because filling the appointment book has been so effective, we put intense energy into filling appointment slots. We partnered with vision insurance companies. We even took the lead from our dentist mentors by stressing “recall” and “pre-appointing”—which also worked.
Many practices that have been established and haven’t shown significant growth find themselves “booked out”—and that’s a problem.
Previously from Dr. Rothschild: How to prevent no-shows in your practice
Full appointment book offers false security
A filled appointment book requires that your patients are willing to wait until you are available to see them. This requires your patients to be both patient and loyal—or they have no other reasonable choice. If you are in a community where options are limited, either by location or insurance participation, a full book may serve you well.
Today’s consumers are less willing to wait for what they want and are less loyal to your practice than ever before. A 2014 Consumer Health Study found that 61 percent of all American consumers would change their healthcare provider for a more convenient appointment, compared to 47 percent who would change for a better price.1
These are existing patients willing to switch providers. New patients don’t have that much loyalty and may schedule an appointment with you but then have an exam at a competitor later that afternoon.