WOOooo—the Ghost of Appointments Future!
What does it take to make change in veterinary practices?
In the case of a contest this year from veterinary advocacy group Partners for Healthy Pets and the Veterinary Medical Association of Executives, it was a turnkey campaign. To promote forward booking—the practice of making the next veterinary appointment during the current appointment—the two organizations created tools for state VMA directors to share with hospitals: advertisements, newsletter content, Facebook posts, letter templates and more.
They also pledged $10,000 in prizes for practices associated with those VMAs to create and share what's been working in forward booking in their hospitals this year.
To further inspire, we've got a few tips from some of the winners about their entries and their efforts in making sure pets don't leave hospitals without the helpful reminder of the next visit on the books.
'When you give clients the opportunity to say "no," it's hard to go back'
What do you call it? "We started forward booking back in 2009. We call it 'pre-appointing.'" What's your goal? "Seventy-five percent of appointments. We don't always make it, but we do have clients fill out a pre-appoint card and we compare the number of those with the number of wellness exams and figure the percentage from there."
What's your biggest hurdle? "New staff tend to have the most difficulty. They're in the habit of asking clients 'yes' or 'no' questions, instead of saying, 'I’ll book your appointment for next year on a similar date and time, a few weeks before the due date. That way, if you need to reschedule for a more convenient time, there's time to do so.' When you give clients the opportunity to say “no,” it’s hard to go back."
How's it going? "Some clients still don’t want us to pre-appoint, which is why our numbers fluctuate, but the majority are getting used to it and expect it from now on. We're really just fine-tuning now—sending out the reminder card after checking the address for accuracy and the pet to make sure they're still with us, and verifying that the appointment date/time is still with the DVM they want to see."
— Bobbie Cotton, practice manager, Animal Family Veterinary Care Center, Davenport, Iowa
'Now our clients love it'
What do you call it? "We call it pre-appointing, for ourselves and with clients."
What's your biggest hurdle? "At first, the room assistants were reluctant. It felt like just another thing they had to do on top of getting notes filled in for the doctor, checking out in the room, and the rest. However, within a few months, they had a routine down."
How's it going? "We began forward booking in May 2016. By the end of 2016, we had 171 appointments booked. As of mid-November this year, we had 818 appointments booked. We're already seeing a huge jump in owner compliance. Now our clients love it. They usually ask, 'Are you going to send me that little postcard?' or, 'Can we schedule this like we did last year?' Clients love it. We let them know that no one knows what they're doing a year from now, but when they get the reminder postcard, we can find a time that best suits their schedule."
— Laurel Brewster, practice manager, SouthCare Animal Medical Center, Spokane, Washington