For many of you, 2020 has had four distinct chapters. The first quarter of the year started fairly well. Revenue generation was healthy; patient visits were growing year-over-year. Then, in the second quarter, all hell broke loose with COVID whipping through the country, state governments instituting stay-at-home orders, and veterinary practices left translating “essential business” mandates as though they were written in Latin. Pet owners in many states took cover at home for several months, and a lot of appointment books withered. In the third quarter, business snapped back. Curbside service reigned supreme and many animal hospitals operated for weeks on end at (or beyond) full capacity. The fourth quarter, once all is said and done, will likely be strong too. What a rollercoaster!
However, as we count down the days until 2020 is thankfully behind us, there is a MASSIVELY important consequence to this pandemic year that you should begin to pay attention to, and thoughtfully plan for. Practices that fail to adapt stand to suffer mightily in 2021 and beyond. It all has to do with patient treatment reminders and the lack of agility 99% of practices face when it comes to those seemingly innocuous postcards, emails, and – if you prescribe to the power of data – phone calls.
We’ve been thinking through this issue a great deal on behalf of some California-based practices, but this issue is mostly agnostic to geography. To understand the problem, let’s backtrack to April and May when your practice was likely in the throes of COVID’s stay-at-home order wrath. Were there a few weeks or even a month or so when between PPE rationing, frightened pet owners, etc. you weren’t seeing a lot of wellness cases? Those vaccination reminders were left unsatisfied. Annual exams were not being completed. The backlog was building. Then, one of two things occurred.
First, a whole lot of those visits eventually took place in the Summer. Was July this year pure insanity at the practice working through the backlog of visits? You weren’t alone. Capacity was so constrained at many locations by existing client visits and restricted appointment books that potential new clients were being told that they couldn’t be seen for several weeks; talk about lost opportunities!
The second issue was that some of those wellness visits never took place. Your reminder system appropriately informed pet owners of the need to come in during March, April, or May; they elected not to because of COVID; your communications stopped (because, inexplicably, many practices only send, on average, two reminders); they forgot; now Fido is way overdue for that visit.
So what does this have to do with 2021 and why should you be worried? Almost everyone reading this is presently using a third-party, automated reminder communication service: Idexx’s Pet Health Network Pro, any one of Covetrus’s offerings, PetDesk, AllyDVM, Boomerang Vet, etc. Automation is pretty convenient when you want a set-it-and-forget-it tool. However, 2021 is a year where you need to thoughtfully remedy the aforementioned consequences of COVID mucking with your appointment book and reminder dates.
No one wants to burn out their staff again in the Summer when the backlog of wellness visits just seen in 2020 obediently return in 2021 at the precise time of year dutifully prescribed by their practice management system. No one wants to potentially forever lose those patients who completely missed their 2020 wellness visit and won’t receive another reminder here many months after the fact. And no one wants to turn away more potential new clients this coming summer because there are no open appointment slots again beginning in June!
Are there remedies to this issue? Absolutely. Are they easy for the average practice to implement? Not exactly. However, if the owners and managers of veterinary practices begin planning now, this overlooked side effect of COVID’s effect on your business can be treated. Clinical protocols can be temporarily revisited for revaccination dating. Manual intervention can alleviate reminder due date bunching. Coordinated client outreach can smooth your practice’s upcoming reminder system histogram. 2020 was an absurdly challenging year for a multitude of reasons. Don’t allow 2021 to suffer as well from this completely preventable hurdle.
How a veterinary practice marketing consultant could help…
Covid has presented a unique set of challenges for veterinary practices across the country. One of the most pressing from a revenue perspective has been the impact on wellness visit reminders, a foundational aspect at every general practice. Depending on the impact at your animal hospital, Gretel’s marketing consultants can craft custom marketing strategies, including:
- Process architect bulk reminder date shifting and create messaging to drive some clients in earlier
- Create a campaign to drive in clients missed completely during 2020’s Covid times
- Build an initiative to drive inactive clients back in during low points in the appointment book
To have us design a revenue boosting project for your veterinary practice, click here.