Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How's your DNA?

A recurring problem in the dental and healthcare sector is caused by patients booking appointments and then failing to turn up for them - are you guilty?
Often referred to as either DNA - 'did not attend' or FTA - 'failed to attend', the incidence of this problem is on the increase but does it really matter?

In short, it matters a great deal.  Firstly, it wastes time.  Healthcare practitioners are there to treat you but if their appointment books are clogged with bookings for patients who do not turn up, then they will ultimately spend a lot of unproductive time which could be spent treating patients. It also lengthens waiting times for appointments - have you ever been frustrated by having to wait several days for an appointment and wondered why you could not have been seen more quickly?

Secondly, it wastes money.  If your practitioners is salaried, they are effectively being paid to do nothing if booked patients fail to turn up.  If the practitioner is within the NHS, this means that the tax you pay is being wasted.

Thirdly, it drives up prices.  Dental practices are increasingly being run as private businesses and therefore rely on income from patients to cover their costs.  A high prevalence of DNAs means that those patients who do attend will have to pay higher prices to cover the 'downtime' caused by non-attendance.

So what can you do to help?  In short, if you book an appointment, attend it and if you need to cancel it make sure you give the practice plenty of notice so they can reallocate the time to someone else.  Also, once you've booked an appointment, make sure you note down the date and time on your diary/smartphone etc.  Although there is increasing use of text messaging for reminders, you should not rely on these as mobile network problems or dead phone batteries can prevent their timely delivery to you.  Finally, please note that if you do not attend an appointment without giving sufficient notice, many practices now charge a non-attendance fee which will need to be paid before treatment can continue.

So, to conclude, help your practitioner to help you and make sure that the letters DNA or FTA do not appear on your records.

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