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Reimagine your veterinary practice's reminders
Reworking your system can be all that's needed to increase client appointment compliance.
This was written by one of 10 finalists for the Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year award, sponsored by VPI. For more from each finalist and a slideshow of the nominees, visit dvm360.com/PMOY.
Overhauling our practice’s reminder system involved an analysis of how clients were receiving and responding to reminders, and teamwork to implement the appropriate changes. We spent about six months trying to make the software work for us, instead of against us. Here’s what I learned:
Long-range reminders are “useless”
First, I reached out for support from our practice software company, AVImark, as well as our ownership partner Veterinary Practice Partners to run a simple analysis of how clients made appointments. I learned that clients often wait until the last minute to schedule an appointment, and it’s useless to have a reminder schedule that sends appointment reminders far in advance.
Clients don’t mind reminder “spam”
Next, I adjusted the reminder schedule so that people are reminded a few times close to their due date, and a few times after their due date. One thing I was worried about was “spamming” people with too many reminders, but clients reassured me they understood that these reminders are important for their pets’ health.
Computers can do the work
The next big change was completely revising how we input the reminders in the first place. Initially, we were manually inputting reminders into AVImark. This was less reliable and efficient than letting the system generate these reminders automatically. Using the automated messages ended up being a lot less time-consuming for our team. I also made sure that the reminder schedule (how often pets should come in for x, y and z treatments) coincided with what the doctors wanted and agreed upon. This eliminated conversations such as, “I got a reminder that told me my pet was overdue for rabies, but the doctor told me I didn’t need it!”
Jargon and shorthand don’t belong in reminders
After finalizing the schedule, I took a look at the language of the reminders. I realized our line items were written for veterinary professionals, not pet owners. I asked my team to read and edit the product and service descriptions in the reminders to make them more client-friendly. For example, if the line item is a vaccine, the reminder explains what the vaccine is for and the duration the vaccine is effective.
Little tweaks make a big difference
Finally, I made sure to check regularly to see how the process was working and to make any tweaks to it. For instance, I experimented with the time of day for reminder calls. When we made calls early in the day, we got answering machines. Making calls later in the afternoon ensured that we caught more people at home.
This process was tiresome but so worth it! Before, only 10 percent of clients would make an appointment after receiving a reminder. Now, more than 20 percent make an appointment after each touch point. The best part of all the work on the reminder system, of course, is timely care for pets.
Amanda Jahn is practice manager at Indian Tree Animal Hospital in Arvada, Colo.