Here are 10 steps that can help:
1. Administer vaccines with the exam. A technician working with the doctor should complete the physical exam. When problems are identified, pick the most significant
issue to be addressed and set up a separate visit. The visit might take place at the time of the appointment or at a future
2. Break up the year. Encourage clients to break their annual visits into three steps. Permit clients to complete the physical and vaccines separately,
but separate out annual testing, too. It's easier to track the pet's weight with this pattern, and it helps your clients bond
to your practice.
More than 50 percent of all "vaccine only" patients have issues to be addressed, but less than 5 percent will have an issue
that precludes vaccine administration. So, do the screening, and recommend the follow-up care.
3. Perform real "annual" testing. Forget trying to do everything in one visit. A good and inclusive geriatric screen that includes CBC, SMA, MSU Thyroid, ESR,
UA and ECG can be done during a slow time.
4. Create peak-time activities. Set up appointments for these inpatient activities. Try drop-off appointments, geriatric screening or testing days with technicians.
Consider shuttling inpatient casework to a "slow time of the week."
Set up your monthly schedule to address long appointments like behavior, short appointments like suture removal, times for
urgent care cases and other slots for elective orthopedics.
5. Start "escrow" accounts. They can help fund veterinary care throughout the year. The program encourages clients to put a set amount into their account
at the clinic every month. You can start with $50 per month. This gives clients a line of "credit" at the clinic for needed
services. Annually adjust the amount for the next 12 months as needed.
If desired, you could offer a 5 percent discount on this escrow account on all services.
6. Start slowly. Perhaps you should start by setting up vaccinations one afternoon per week. Only accept appointments, and only accept five
cases per week.
7. Use a metric that focuses on the patient, not the client. Push down the average client transactions and push up the annual services per patient to get clients back in the front door.
(See DVM Newsmagazine, "ACT Is Dead, Long Live ASPP; Sept. 2010.)
8. Make them obsolete. I'm referring to vaccine clinics. When one is faced with competition, the best strategy is to fight fire with fire. Beat the
vaccine clinic prices for the rabies three-year vaccine. Give clients a reason to find you.
9. Danger is the mindset. No change means no progress.
10. Assess your situation. Where are you in terms of revenue: thriving, dying or stagnant? Consider your business plan, your direction, your future and
your position in the community. Consider the issues presented in this column and evaluate how they might affect or benefit
your practice strategy. Then, all you need to do is adjust your business plan. Get ready to smile at the results.
Dr. Riegger, dipl. ABVP, owns Northwest Animal Clinic in Albuquerque, N.M. He can be reached at http://nwanimalclinic.com/, by e-mail at email@example.com
or by calling (505) 898-1491.