To gain more visits to your hospital, you can take a couple of approaches. Getting new clients is fabulous, of course! But what if the clients you already have would come see you more frequently. How many clients consistently forget that Scruffy is due for a vaccine or test? Perhaps they didn’t really remember that you said to bring him in for his next check-up in 6 months. If you want to pull those clients back in, you will have to reach out first.

Clients are crazy busy with their own lives, just as the doctors and staff are crazy busy performing the tasks of each day. We certainly can’t remember who had a rabies shot one year ago today. I can’t usually remember what I had for breakfast. Wait… did I have breakfast?? Most clients want to keep their pet healthy. If they didn’t, they would not have come to us in the first place. But between carpools, dentist appointments with the kids, work, household chores, after school activities… well, they may not know what was for breakfast either. We need to make it easy on them to know when to bring their pet to us, and for what. They need reminders for services and tests due, for meds to be refilled (and administered, perhaps).

According to Dr. Tom Nelson in his article on heartworm prevention reminders for DVM360, research has shown that heartworm compliance is not usually a money issue. It’s forgetfulness. He found that by implementing reminders for heartworm prevention administration at home (monthly tabs), in addition to the visit reminders for heartworm prevention injections, he had a 33% increase in preventative sales. And he heard “oh, I don’t need a refill… I still have 3 tabs left…” a lot less often.
Betcha never thought of using a reminder system that way! (Me either…but I like it!)

Now try this on for size. Reminders for recheck exams. We see lots of ear infections, dermatitis, mild lamenesses, and gooey eyes each week. Most of us are going to ask the client to bring the pet back in 10-14 days. We see some of them. But many assume if things are better, they don’t need to come back. Or they forget the plan. Client forgetfulness is becoming a theme here. A simple math exercise I saw really drove the importance of getting these appointments back in. Suppose you see 20 of these appointments in a week. If you can get half of those to come back in for their recheck, and assuming a modest $35 recheck exam fee, you are looking at $350 in increased revenue each week. Maybe not as impressive, until you consider this unfolding over the course of a year. That’s a fat $18,000 a year increase, before figuring in any medication refills, recheck labs, or additional treatments or ancillary products purchased during those visits!

In both of these scenarios, increased compliance leads to healthier pets and better outcomes, as well as increased revenue.

Whether you feel married to reminder postcards, or are ready to branch out into emails and text message reminders, automation is your friend. It saves your staff an enormous amount of time, and increases the chances that all reminders are distributed. Predefining reminder intervals in your system is a must. Make sure there is agreement and understanding among the doctors as to what schedule your practice will use, so there is no confusion. Then you can set your vaccines, tests, exams and preventatives to generate reminders automatically, after the time period you specify. For example, a reminder for a one- year rabies vaccine might be set to appear one month before its due date. Then they are so simple to distribute to clients. Email, text, postcard, or phone call, all reminders are easier when you don’t have to guess who is due for what, or research records.

A few things to keep in mind: Reminders may start off as long range, and as the service due date approaches, they can be repeated. Keeping client contact information up to date is vital, and knowing client preferences can help ensure that your reminders reach them in the most effective way (i.e., text vs email vs phone call). You will likely find that the need for postage is much less, as many clients now prefer electronic reminders. Thank goodness! The use of reminders for appointments for the next day can decrease the number of no shows, and sending out special reminders for clients that have pets that are overdue for services by 3-6 months can help get them back on track, and let them know you are concerned for their pet, even when you haven’t seen them lately.eating an automated reminder system should be a part of your practice’s marketing plan, and it amounts to good medicine, as well. It is a vital method of advocating for our patients’ best interests. It helps avoid the avoidable, from heartworms to parvo, and it provides a sense of organization both to staff and clients by defining what is recommended in given circumstances and assuring that they can both easily be aware of what is needed when. Regular and organized reminders provide a metaphoric tap on a client’s shoulder to say “Hi! Remember us?Because we remember you and Snickerdoodle! Let’s get together and keep her healthy.”

For some of us, the drudgery of constructing and executing a reminder system has been just too much. I get it. It can be convoluted and confusing at first, and there are roughly a million other things you would rather do each day… anal gland expression anyone? But in this day and age (and with an amazing system like!), a bit of effort up front can pay dividends later and for years to come. I’m talking about literal cash here, folks! And beyond cash comes the unquantifiable pay off that comes from knowing that we were able to create the opportunity to do the best things for our patients just by making sure they came to see us!

Written by: Dr. Kristen Arp

Dr. Arp graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. She has practiced in the Metro Atlanta area since graduation. Dr. Arp lives in Loganville, Georgia with her husband, Trey and their two children. Tempe, their chocolate lab, can regularly be seen riding in Dr. Arp’s van, always ready to help with her patients.