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The mission of the HSAH Veterinary Solutions Workshops was to elicit expert advice and actionable business solutions to increase the practice success of the veterinary customers we serve while reinforcing the veterinarian to the pet owner as the best source of healthcare andproduct choices for longer healthier lives of the pet family member.

Each month we discuss the insightful viewpoints of four of the most respected and well-known financial experts in the veterinary business today. These insights were a result of a day-long workshop conducted by Henry Schein Animal Health, Elanco, Ceva, Merial and Zoetis.


  • Dr. Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA, PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting
  • Gary I. Glassman, CPA, Burzenski & Company, P.C.
  • Dr. Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc.
  • Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP, HF Wood Consulting

Maximizing Exam Room Opportunities: Using Data to Monitor and Retain Clients - 8th in Series

September 6, 2016

Editor’s note: This is the 8th in a series of monthly articles that discusses the insightful viewpoints of four of the most respected and well-known financial experts in the veterinary business today, who came together in late 2014 and 2015 at the invitation of Henry Schein Animal Health, Ceva, Elanco, Merck, Merial, Purina, and Virbac to share their expertise and informed opinions in the areas of pharmacy, nutrition and data.

They are: Dr. Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting; Gary I. Glassman, CPA of Burzenski & Company, P.C.; Dr. Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM of Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc.; and Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP, HF of Wood Consulting. The mission of the “Veterinary Pharmacy Diets and Data Solutions Workshop” is bringing expert advice and actionable business solutions to increase the practice success of the veterinary customers we serve while reinforcing the veterinarian to the pet owner as the best source of healthcare and product choices for longer healthier lives of the pet family member. Be sure to visit to watch live video clips excerpted from the workshop that accompany each monthly article.

Maximizing exam room opportunities

Engaging clients on pet medications is as much science as it is art. How – and where – that engagement takes place is critical.

Think about the frequency and kinds of distractions there are in your hospital or practice reception area. Now think about what’s competing for your client’s attention when important decisions need to be made about their pet’s health and well-being between this and the next appointment. If your front desk is simultaneously interacting with a dozen people as they struggle to rein in excitable puppies or cats, what kinds of meaningful education is accomplished?

If you allow those decisions to be made in the often chaotic front reception area, you could be missing opportunities for better client education, better medicine, increased revenues and returning clients.

Your exam rooms provide the ideal setting for engaging your clients on not only the current service or treatment needed but also for flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. It’s the difference between a serious consideration of a medication as a component of a beloved pet’s health, or a simple, cold retail transaction. If you make your exam rooms an inviting place, they will facilitate private, direct and focused communication. In this space, you have your client’s undivided attention. It allows you, the practice owner, or team, to not only have that important conversation, but the opportunity and presence of mind to record that effort in the medical record.

Bear in mind that every member of your hospital or practice staff plays some role in marketing your pharmacy business. A technician or friendly receptionist or front desk team member can gently query and remind clients about recommended medications and answer questions. The important thing to remember is keep to your messaging simple, direct and consistent. Remember “every pet, every time.”

Exam rooms also provide the perfect venue for product placement. There, in that intimate space, you have a captive audience. Utilize models for heartworm disease and other disease conditions to provide a compelling and powerful visual that’s impossible to miss. Consider wall mounted video displays of your team in action, providing different services and patient care, as well as featured recommended products like microchipping and pet nutrition.

Finally, remember that opportunities to engage clients on important matters such as heartworm and parasite prevention decrease exponentially the longer you keep them waiting up front. The sooner your client and their pet are invited to a private exam room, the better. Exam room engagement allows you to respect your client’s time and opinions. The efforts you expend to make that as efficient and pleasant an experience as possible will pay valuable dividends.

Maximizing exam room opportunities

Displaying bags of pet food in six-foot-high columns in your front reception area is a good visual. It clearly shows clients you carry nutrition products and have plentiful supplies on hand.

But it does little to sell the importance, the value, of quality therapeutic and wellness diets to your clients. This is why client-centric, exam room engagement provides a powerful way to not only discuss client-specific nutritional issues with their pets, but also a distraction-free means of explaining the kinds of nutritional products you carry and recommend.

Exam room engagement allows you to have focused conversations about the health of your client’s pet, and address such concerns as pricing and quality perceptions. And studies consistently and definitively show how and why client decisions about buying pet food and medications are exponentially easier in the confines of the exam room, when you are engaging them face to face. This is where the trust you’ve worked so hard to build with your clients pays off.

It’s a fact: People far more readily accept a doctor’s recommendation about nutrition in the exam room. Absent that discussion, your client could just as easily walk out to the front desk and declare, “I really don’t want or need that right now, but thanks,” and walk out the door.

Remember to record client interactions about nutrition by using tools like exam room report cards, which allow you to document any signs of poor nutrition, notate a weight, body condition score, your discussion, and your nutritional recommendation. They also allow you to create a mechanism for following up at a later date. Reinforce that interaction by providing your client with the handout for the diet you recommended.

There are two important things to remember about your exam rooms: make them comfortable and inviting (for clients and their pets), and maximize technological tools to supplement your efforts. Remember the “show and tell” effect – it can be powerful and effective. For example use the body condition score charts in the exam room and teach your clients to actually assess their pet’s score. Over 50% of your patients are overweight and most clients are not even aware of it. We know that maintaining a proper body weight will help avoid many diseases like diabetes. So take the time to teach your clients how to recognize a weight problem to help keep their pet healthy. The exam room is the perfect environment for this teaching and nutritional counseling. Remember “every pet, every time.”

Using data to monitor and retain clients

To grow your practice you need to grow both your number of active clients and your client compliance.

As we noted in previous articles of this series, monitoring client growth trends is essential to growing your business. You need to make sure you grow your client base by retention of your active clients, re-engaging your inactive clients and bringing in new clients.

You also need to understand your client compliance trends. Such metrics tell you what products and services clients are and aren’t using; the rate of compliance; how much they’re spending or not spending on your practice’s goods and services; and their loyalty – the length and value of your relationship.

There are a number of tools to increase compliance. We will focus on four: report cards, reminders, forward booking and satisfaction surveys.

Report cards. Used properly, client report cards can increase compliance. They can provide your client with information about your diagnoses, medication and nutritional recommendations, and the next visit. Report cards reinforce your discussion and recommendations and provide a tool for your clients to more accurately share the information with their family. This brings more value to the client experience.

Reminders. With the exception of vaccinations and heartworm tests, so many practices fail to maximize the full potential of reminders. Every opportunity your practice utilizes to draw clients to return for visits and products could mean an increase in medicine, compliance and revenue. Your data gathering efforts around reminders can reveal the effectiveness of your messaging and, over time, increase your success in retaining existing clients and attracting new ones. Your practice management software and other client communication technologies can customize the reminder system each client prefers such as voice, e-mail, text messaging, and post cards. Some technologies even allow your clients to make their own appointments online and request medication and diet refills. And they can provide the data you need to measure and grow the compliance of services and products you offer.

Forward booking. The concept is simple: while your client is still in the practice, whether in the exam room or at the front desk or by phone, never miss the opportunity to schedule their next visit. Dental practices are very successful with forward booking. They forward book 80% of their patients and about 90% will keep those appointments with a reminder system. Forward booking is active versus passive. Use your software prompts to remind you to make the next appointment before the client transaction is complete. Forward booking can help fill your appointments and increase both your quality of medicine and revenue. Make sure you have a standard of care plan to know “what’s next” so you can book that next appointment providing more services to your clients.

Client satisfaction surveys.
Their value is obvious. The data you can glean from them could easily drive most important decisions about your daily business and future endeavors. Use technology to send your clients a survey the day after they have been to see you. You can focus on finding out what creates a great experience and what causes your clients to decide not to come back. The more you know, the more changes you can make to maximize both your relationship with your clients and compliance with your product and service recommendations.

About the Author
Dawn Burdette, Executive Director, Sales Leadership and Development has served HSAH for over 25 years. Dawn has served in a variety of positions in sales and management. This includes training our sales force on the business of veterinary medicine and bringing business solutions to our customers that increase financial success for veterinary practices. Dawn currently serves on the AVMA’s Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee.
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