Do you embrace technology or shy away from it? Technology should not be a dirty word but instead a helpful tool to drive your practice to its next level of excellence. By technology, I am referring to web sites, electronic medical records (paperless practice), email reminders, internet shop sites and yes, even the purchase of new equipment such as digital radiology or a surgical laser. Is it all worth it? Will it make a difference in your practice?
1) Let's talk about your veterinary software program
a) Scheduling appointments – Once you switch to an electronic medical record system and incorporate a program that will work along with your veterinary software program you will be able to allow your clients to request an appointment via e-mail. So, if that clients wishes to contact your practice at three o'clock in the morning they can send an e-mail and request to schedule an appointment. The receptionist can review those requests the following day and respond back to the client with a set appointment time.
b) Options and opportunities - The client can also access information about their pet if you choose so they can see the reminders that are due, medications the pet is on and even a "family album" of the pet's pictures if the practice chooses to do that. Many software programs will also allow the client to access a whole library of information. The client may look up information on a disease or medical problem and get good accurate information written in "client speak". They can also e-mail the practice with questions and/or requests. Many of these features are at the discretion of the veterinary practice so if you do not wish clients to be able to e-mail you, you can opt out of that feature
c) Many software systems allow you to format documents so that you can fill in exam room report cards, complete discharge order forms or use drop down boxes for filling in information.
2) How do you measure appointment fill rate and doctor productivity?
a) Practice analysis - Wouldn't it be nice if you could turn on your computer and at a glance see how it is doing from a practice management point of view. You could be able to see your total transactions for the day, your income for the day, you average per client transaction, accounts receivable, and number of new clients to name a few. All with a push of a button. You could also graph that information and e-mail it to your doctors or management team. This again is not fantasy, but available today from companies that will work with your veterinary software. This important technology will allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of your practice.
3) Email reminders - A recent study conducted by VetStreet found that adding e-mail reminders to your reminder protocol might increase your overall effectiveness by 17%. If you would figure the average veterinarian might see 3,000 clients a year, 17% would equal 510 clients. Based on a $120.00 per client transaction charge that would equate to another $61,200 of income per doctor per year, and of course a healthier patient. The costs of sending e-mail reminders are substantially less and require less involvement of your team members.
What is the most effective protocol? I would suggest you send an e-mail reminder for the first reminder. Naturally you need to make sure you have the clients e-mail address in the computer and it is up to date. But once you start communicating with your clients via e-mail you will see the sky is the limit.
a) What should you be reminding for? Medical recalls, appointment reminders on appointments, sending them supportive medical information on problems you discussed with them, birthday cards and so much more. They will be impressed and better bonded to your practice.