VHMA Files: Forward thinking

How to use forward booking for your practice.

It's a recurring issue in many practices: How do you make sure the appointment book is full? If this topic makes you gnash your teeth in frustration, take a page from the dental industry. They have relied on forward booking to fill appointment slots for years. 

Forward booking involves scheduling the client's next visit before clients leave the practice-during the current visit. How common is this practice in the veterinary industry? VHMA surveyed its members to find out.

Of the 377 managers who were surveyed and asked if they forward booked rechecks or medical progress exams, 75 percent of respondents reported doing it “always” or “most of the time.” An additional 16 percent indicated they forward booked occasionally. A small percentage did not forward book, considered doing it or didn't know how to do it.

But when we took a closer look, we found veterinary practices that forward book are most likely to book progress exams and aren't as inclined to advance schedule annual wellness exams and preventive care appointments. (See Figure 1.) If we look at the 80 percent success rate in dental practices, can we expect forward booking to be as effective in veterinary practices? In conversations with VHMA members, we learned that forward booking requires a change in mindset. To ensure the team embraces the procedure, they must believe that it benefits the practice and patients. Consider these points to share with team members about the importance of forward booking:

1. Forward booking allows clients to better manage the health and well-being of their pets. When clients place an appointment on the calendar well in advance, pet owners are more likely to commit to proper health care. Forward booking supports the practice's standards of care.

2. Forward booking ensures proper follow-up. Patients are seen by a trained professional to evaluate the outcome of an illness or procedure. While a client might report that the patient is doing well, only veterinary professionals can accurately deliver this assessment.

3. The practice of forward booking promotes prevention, and it may also circumvent health complications.

4. For practices, forward booking can increase revenues while promoting a high standard of care.

So what are you waiting for? Isn't it time to look to the future?