The effect of confirmation calls on appointment-keeping behavior of patients in a children's hospital dental clinic

A A Christensen, R A Lugo, D K Yamashiro
Pediatric Dentistry 2001, 23 (6): 495-8

PURPOSE: The objective of this prospective, randomized, controlled study was to evaluate whether confirmation calls made one or two working days before scheduled appointments reduce the percentage of broken appointments in a children's hospital dental clinic.

METHODS: Patients were randomly assigned to three groups: 1) confirmation call made one working day before appointment, 2) confirmation call made two working days before appointment; and 3) control group (no confirmation call). Clinic staff made confirmation calls during normal office hours. Patient arrival was classified as 1) < or =15 minutes late; 2) > 15 minutes late; or 3) broken appointment.

RESULTS: Three hundred and thirteen subjects were enrolled in the study: 77 subjects in group 1; 71 subjects in group 2; and 84 subjects in the control group. Eighty-one subjects (26%) could not be contacted by telephone. Overall, there was a 62% reduction in broken appointments among patients who received a confirmation call as compared to the control group. There was no significant difference between confirmation calls placed one or two working days prior to the appointment (P=0.51). Confirmation calls had no effect on punctuality. In comparing indigent care and private insurance, there was no significant difference in broken appointments. However, within the private insurance group, a confirmation call resulted in 93% of patients keeping their appointment as compared to 63% in the control group (P<0.001). No significant difference was noted in the indigent care group, with 79% of patients in the confirmation call group keeping their appointments as compared to 66% in the control group (P=. 093).

CONCLUSIONS: Confirmation calls reduced the percentage of broken appointments in a pediatric dental clinic. There was no difference between calls placed one or two working days prior to the appointment. The greatest reduction in broken appointments was shown in the private insurance group.

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