Give Kids a Smile Day Scheduling Tips
Give Kids a Smile Day (GKAS) needs little introduction anymore. Colorado is very fortunate to have so many generous dental professionals who, without a second thought, volunteer at least one of their busy days to help Colorado’s kids through the GKAS program in February.
Based on prior GKAS surveys, the CDA is thrilled to know that your GKAS days continue to be huge success stories, opportunities for staff bonding and a great way for you to give back to the community. While the vast majority of the comments have been positive, some concerns were brought up regarding “no-show” patients and qualifying patients financially for the program. Both of these topics can be a problem with a program of this nature. The following are suggestions and ways to address these concerns.
No Show Patients: Let’s face it, patients who miss their appointments are a problem. While good reasons may exist, the truth of the matter is that you set aside time in your day to help a patient, and the patient failed to show you the same courtesy. This is even more frustrating when you volunteer for a program to help those who need it most and all of the hard work you put into making the day as special as possible seems to be for not when at least one of your patients neglects to show up. While you can’t control whether a person comes to his/her appointment, we encourage you to take some extra measures while scheduling and communicating with the patients prior to GKAS. Volunteer programs of this nature typically deal with a very transient population — addresses and phone numbers often can change within weeks, making it extremely hard to contact patients. In addition, transportation issues exist because several family members (or even several families) are sharing a vehicle, or the family’s main mode of transportation is the bus system.
Scheduling: Taking all of this into account, consider scheduling extra patients or even double booking patients for the day. While this could result in an extremely busy day, the more likely result will be a fulfilling day with a controllable patient load. It’s also a good idea to ask for more than one phone number to contact the patient (if one number is disconnected or incorrect, you’ll have a second number as a back-up).
Communication: Don’t be shy about reminding patients of their appointments. It is very important to remind patients at least once of their GKAS appointments. Even better, you might consider mailing a postcard or a letter reminder (with the address and a map to your office) and then follow-up with a phone call a day or two before GKAS. If you are working with a school nurse or another community resource, have them help you remind the families of their commitments to their appointments.
Qualifying Patients: It is no doubt frustrating when a mom shows up with her kids on GKAS day in a nice car and a $4 latte with extra foam in hand. It is also frustrating to find out that the family has some sort of insurance that would help them afford dental care, and yet they’re showing up for free dental treatment. While this isn’t a common occurrence, it unfortunately does happen from time to time. The intention of GKAS is to provide treatment for children who are without insurance, without CHP (Child Health Plan Plus) and without the means to afford dental care. As with many charity programs, there are unfortunately people who take advantage of the generosity of volunteers. GKAS was not established to police a family’s financial situation, but asking a few questions before scheduling an appointment could spare you some frustration later.
Financial Assessment: When a parent calls to make an appointment for GKAS, take some time to ask a few questions to make sure they’re deserving of an appointment. Ask them if they have insurance/CHP coverage. Respectfully deny the patient of a GKAS appointment if they have insurance or CHP coverage, and explain to the parent that this program is intended for those families who are without any financial assistance for dental treatment. While we do not ask for proof of a family’s income situation, use your instincts to assess the caller seeking an appointment for his/her child.
These suggestions are not meant to take you out of your comfort zone or to cause embarrassment to the patients in any way. They are simply a few things to keep in mind as you are preparing for your GKAS Friday in a couple months. If you have additional questions or need more information, please call the CDA at 303-740-6900 or 800-343-3010.