Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Minimizing Open Appointments

Unfortunately, patient cancellations are a fact of life in every dental office.

I was in an office recently where the office manager complained she would get several messages from patients on a Sunday night, canceling appointments for Monday. The office schedule was typically very busy and booked out far in advance. The office wished they had a list of patients who would like to come in sooner to fill their schedule.

I recommend keeping a list of patients who may want to come in sooner for an appointment. It’s a huge time saver to have a list of patients ready and waiting to come in. There are many patients who may want to come in sooner. For example, a patient who is retired or works from home may have a schedule that allows them to be flexible for appointments. A patient with a toothache may be very eager to get started on that root canal as soon as possible. Or a patient who can only come in for a 4:00PM appointment may be willing to come at 4:00PM on any day. These are patients you can easily call and offer appointments to fill open appointment times.

Dentrix has appointment lists for these very types of patients. When the patient has an appointment scheduled but wants to come in sooner, you can assign these schedule types: Fixed, Open, or ASAP.

I suggest using Fixed for your patients who need a specific day and time and can’t be flexible and come in on short notice. Open would be used for patients with a flexible schedule who may be able to come in on short notice. ASAP would be used for patients who want to come in as soon as possible. (Dentrix defaults the schedule types to Fixed unless you customize this in the practice appointment setup.)

To assign a schedule type to a patient and have the patient show with a status of “open” or “ASAP,” open the Dentrix Appointment Book, double-click an open time, and select a patient to display the Appointment Information dialog box. Click the Schedule field and select ASAP or Open.

You can access the ASAP and Open lists from the Appointment Book, under the Appt List menu. In Dentrix G6.5 and newer versions, the ASAP and Open appointment lists have been combined into one interactive list that you filter to view the patients you want to see.

I particularly like this new feature because it makes the appointment lists more user friendly. You can select from ASAP, Appointments, Pinboard and Unscheduled Lists. Or you can create custom lists by clicking on Setup > Appointment List View.

The Dentrix Appointment List is more interactive than previous versions because not only can you access the patient’s Office Journal directly from the list, but you can also access the patient’s other Dentrix modules, such as the Dentrix Family File, Patient Chart and Ledger. I find it helpful to have easy access to these modules when I’m calling a patient to schedule.

Once you have selected an Appointment List, or created a custom list, you can sort the appointments by clicking on the column header. You can use this tool to sort the appointments by name, by provider, by operatory and by appointment reason. I like to sort by appointment reason, especially when using the lists to fill an open appointment. I can start by calling the patients who need a high production procedure, like a crown, to maintain a productive schedule.

Try using these appointment lists to fill open appointments more easily. They give you a list to work from that is accessible from all computers. Also, team members can confidently contact these patients, knowing that the patients have expressed an interest in coming in sooner.

Please e-mail me at if you have questions or would like to learn more.

Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer
Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at

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