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How many times has a patient walked in, requesting an immediate or same day dental appointment? Have you thought, “Oh no, there goes my schedule,” or “How am I going to fit this one in?” There is more at stake than just that one day.

 

Walk-ins can be a good thing if you have openings in your schedule. They can help you make scheduling and production goals. But you do want to be cautious about letting walk-ins come in and interrupt your day if you do not have the room in your schedule. The main reason is that these patients can put the dentist and team behind schedule and make the patients who have previously scheduled their appointments wait.

Accepting that walk-ins do happen and that managing them is part of your job can eliminate the tension and “oh no” feeling. Accept this and practice in your mind how you will handle these situations to everyone’s benefit.

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Create Value for Your Appointments

If the walk-in is not an emergency and your schedule is full, create value for the appointment by saying your schedule is full now and scheduled patients take precedence. Offer to find room for them soon. Ask what days and times of day are good for them.

If the walk-in is not an emergency and your schedule is not full, create value for the appointment by saying they are fortunate that time just opened, and if they wait a little while, the dentist can see them. Mention that normally, the schedule is full and prescheduled patients take precedence over walk-ins, so in the future, it’s to their benefit to call ahead. Of course, this is communicated warmly.

If the walk-in is a true emergency and the patient is in pain, check with the dentist to see how the dentist would like to adjust your schedule. Often, you can manage scheduled patients’ expectations by letting them know you are running a few minutes behind due to a dental emergency and you know they would like the same courtesy of promptly seeing the dentist if they had an emergency. Also, knowing your patients well and building relationships with them can enable you to reach out to specific scheduled patients to see if they wouldn’t mind coming 30 minutes later or being rescheduled in an opening you do need to fill.

 

Doing Favors Can Lead to Chronic “Bad” Behavior

Some patients become chronic walk-ins. This is because they are always accommodated, when they walk in, and now they think they don’t need to schedule their appointments in advance. Be sure to let them know that scheduled patients do get precedence over them. Don’t make appointing them easy. If someone is a second time walk-in, let them know you are full and schedule them for later.

 

Patients Made to Wait Think They Can Be Late

If you are frequently behind schedule, waiting patients, think that is your modus operandi. They get used to you running late and start coming later for their appointments. This creates a domino effect that is not ideal for staying on schedule.

Conversely, if a patient chronically runs late for an appointment and disrupts your schedule, this patient does not value your time appropriately. Don’t make it easy for the patient to come in late and expect they are ahead of other waiting patients. Communicate why their appointment now needs to be delayed, shortened, rescheduled, or even wait listed.

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