The big gap between optimal and essential veterinary care
Successful patient outcomes remain a cornerstone of the veterinary industry, with routine attendance, health monitoring and disease prevention being critical to the delivery of excellent care. However, increasing pressure on household finances in recent years has created a gap between optimal and essential care, which in turn has resulted in longer intervals between visits.
Significant numbers of clients continue to avoid routine examinations or postpone treatments for their pets, increasing pressure on under-pressure practices. Worryingly, practices report difficulties in re-engaging with clients who have missed several routine appointments.
Statistics underscore the importance of regular, ongoing communication as a core part of any patient recapture program to ensure that clients return for scheduled appointments, and as the first line of defense against becoming ‘lapsed’ in the first place.
60% of clients haven’t visited in last 18 months
Highlighting the challenges facing the veterinary industry, more than 30% of practices in the 2016 Covetrus Global Veterinary Research Survey experienced a reminder success rate of less than 70% in the previous 12 months. Furthermore, less than 50% of new clients return the following year and 60% of existing clients may not have visited the clinic in 18 months or more.
Of great concern is feedback in 2017 Covetrus Education Masterclass Research, which found that 66% of practices do not attempt to recall patients who have not visited for 24 months. That such a large percentage of practices fail to follow through on lapsed patients exemplifies how the veterinary industry lags behind other sectors in giving essential administrative functions the attention they deserve.
This innocence is reflected in a question asked as part of the VHMA November 2018 Insiders’ Insights Report. A full 20% of practices admitted that “we do not worry about performance, so long as the practice is reasonably full.”
With the best intentions, veterinary professionals are notoriously guilty of not always operating their practice as a business. Greater profitability supports improved patient care, which makes it clear why reminders, recalls and lapsed patient recapture should be top of mind for all practices.
Smaller independent practices not adopting this mindset are particularly at risk. Large corporate practices with a business focus are entering the market in more significant numbers. These generally efficient and effective practices are in a prime position to drive local practices that lack business acumen out of the market.
Practice owners who are unaware of a problem with lapsed patients see no reason to act. This has given rise to a large number of practices that have taken no steps to address the issues created by poor client follow-up.
This knowledge gap is indicative of the disconnect that can exist in many practices. This often gives rise to a situation in which practice owners, who spend a significant amount of time seeing patients, believe that patient communications are being sent systematically and reliably, when the reality can be quite different.
Supporting the importance of following up on lapsed patients are figures quoted by Veterinary Practice News, who reports it can cost up to five times as much to attract a new client than keeping an existing one. Not only that, the average business loses around 20% of its clients each year by failing to focus on existing client relationships.
Expect a 70% response rate with repeat communication
Continuing to attempt to engage with lapsed clients can also have a positive impact on practice revenue. Covetrus research confirms that industry best practice is to continue to recall clients at regular intervals — not only after 12 months when a recall is due, but continuing to reach out for 24 and even 36 months. When factoring in the average transaction value versus the cost of sending a recall, the adoption of this process becomes very compelling.
And veterinary communication consultant, Wendy S. Myers, says it’s reasonable to expect a 70% response rate once clients have received first, second, and third reminders. While it’s unrealistic to accomplish this manually, advances in messaging technology mean it’s now possible to send personalized, repeat communications to each one of your clients, every time.
A fully-integrated, automated solution that combines digital email communications with tried and tested printed postcards in the mail will increase the likelihood of successful patient recapture.
Covetrus’ Patient Recapture Program targets patients who haven’t visited your practice in the past 18 months. Through a series of postcards and email communications, the importance of preventive care is reinforced and the owners of these patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment.
A typical two-veterinarian practice has around 7,000 clients. If 20% of this patient base hasn’t been seen in the past 18 months, this works out at 1,400 patients. Just a 4% recapture rate – using Covetrus Patient Recapture – will result in 56 new appointments. At an average appointment value of $150, this could mean $8,400 additional revenue for your practice.
How much are you willing to invest to create positive, long-term momentum for your practice? With the Patient Recapture Program, the only cost you incur is when lapsed patients return to your practice.