Getting a grip on biannual exams


Even Well-Managed Practices aren't seeing many patients for twice-yearly exams—proof that the idea hasn't caught on yet. Use these strategies to educate your clients about the benefits.

Only 7 percent of Well-Managed Practices report that more than 50 percent of their patients visit twice a year for exams, according to The 2005 Well-Managed Practice Study, produced by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and Veterinary Economics. (See Figure 1 for more.) And these 100 management-focused practices may outpace the profession when it comes to adopting and promoting more-frequent exams.

Figure 1 : A look at the numbers

Believers in biannual exams say they catch problems earlier and keep pets healthy longer when they see them more often. Detractors say that clients, many of whom don't visit their own doctor yearly, just won't bring a healthy pet in for a second exam. And that difference in perception is critical. You have to believe you're acting in the best interests of the pet to promote this service to clients effectively.

"Don't view reminding clients of recommended health care as being pushy or insistent," says Denise Tumblin, CPA, co-owner and vice president of Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates in Columbus, Ohio. "This isn't telemarketing; you have an established relationship. It's a service to your clients to recommend the best care and to remind them about a necessary procedure, whether it's blood work, vaccinations, or an exam. Taking the lead and proactively scheduling appointments with your clients shows that you and your staff care about their pet."

If you decide to recommend twice-annual visits to all or some segment of your clients, you need to reinforce that message consistently. For example, you could provide reading materials or videos in the reception area. Your technicians and assistants could reinforce the educational message during their time in the exam room. And, of course, doctors should continue to educate about ongoing care during their time with the client. You could also reach clients outside of the practice by sending them a newsletter. Or you could provide educational materials on your practice Web site.

Reminders also help your clients stick to a pet-wellness schedule. Whether you contact your clients by phone, mail, or e-mail, Tumblin, one of the authors of the Well-Managed Practice Study, offers this advice: "Send out your first reminder a few weeks before patients are due for their wellness exam or other procedure. Follow up with a second reminder once the due date passes. If you still don't receive a response, a friendly reminder call with a compelling message including a suggested appointment day or time may prompt a positive response."

One final tip: If you're having a hard time reaching clients, try making your reminder calls at different times throughout the day. You'll improve your chances of actually finding your client at home.

Get more!

The 2005 Well-Managed Practice Study examines the results strong practices achieve when it comes to fees; revenue; expenses; facility, technology, and equipment; and strategic planning, and sets benchmarks for other practices that strive to provide high-quality care and a good work environment. The authors also offer recommendations and tools to help you reach your practice goals. Call (800) 598-6009 or visit

for more or to order.

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