What is the veterinarian’s role in preventive care? Veterinarians are trained to diagnose and treat but there is a need to also include a focus on prevention. Preventive care helps your patients lead longer and healthier lives and it builds client loyalty. When you increase preventive care services provided and compliance, pet healthcare is less expensive for your clients while it increases practice revenue. Prevention is less expensive than treatments. It is a win for the practice, your clients and your patients.
Why focus on preventive care services?
The short answer is because it is good medicine. Prevention and earlier detection leads to better patient outcomes and is less expensive for the client compared to treatments while generating more revenue for the practice. Clients save when you prevent disease and your practice grows when you provide more preventive care services and products to more clients. And your practice grows when you bring more client spend into your practice from competitive channels.
The good news is that most pet owners really want preventive care for their furry family members once they are educated on the benefits. Most of your clients understand preventive care for themselves. Who would line up for a colonoscopy or mammogram if you didn’t understand the value of prevention? Who would go to the dentist twice a year to have their teeth cleaned when they don’t have a toothache if they didn’t understand prevention? And yet we do. So we understand for ourselves that prevention is very important but many pet owners have not connected the dots that preventive medicine is critical for their pets too. So we have to educate. We have work to do. The payoff is healthier patients, happier and more loyal clients, and increased revenue for the practice.
Where do you start?
Let’s first talk about best preventive care procedures. Has your practice adopted agreed-upon preventive medicine protocols? Most practices have not. So start with your doctors to develop a veterinarian-determined guideline of the specific preventive care services or products your patients will ideally receive each year. A good first step is to read the AAHA-AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines. You can find the guidelines in the toolbox on the Partners for Healthy Pets website (www.partnersforhealthypets.org). This provides information beyond vaccinations and parasite control.
Once you finalize your practice’s unique guidelines, develop a simple way to communicate the recommendations to your clients. Every employee should understand and support the practice guidelines and be able to talk about them. Make sure the practice website messaging is aligned, too.
Now, how many appointments will it take to provide all the services and products included in your new annual preventive care program? Can all services be provided in one annual appointment? NO! How many appointments are realistically needed? What impact would three annual appointments per patient have on your patient care? What impact would it have on your practice revenue? Would you be able to increase the client annual spend with your practice while reducing the sticker shock of each appointment? Would that increase compliance?
Once you know the number of services you will provide annually and the number of appointments needed… you can share the annual plan with your clients and forward book each appointment. Does your dentist let you out of the chair without your next appointment booked? No! Can you imagine the positive impact on your appointment book when each client is forward booked for the next visit? What about the impact on your employee scheduling? Book the next appointment for each client before they leave the practice and send a reminder to make sure they come to visit. Worried about client pushback in forward booking? See the "Forward Booking" section on the Partners for Healthy Pets website for videos and other resources to make this happen in your practice!
Let’s do the math
If you were asked how much does it cost to have a dog companion, what would you say? Add it all up and the exams, tests, dental care, vaccines, fecal, heartworm/flea/tick preventives, and nutrition would all add up to about $1,000 a year! But the average veterinary spend on a dog is closer to $200 a year. If you added an additional $800 for each canine patient in your practice it would equate to millions in new revenue. Your clients may spend more with you by shifting some purchases like nutrition from competitive channels to your practice and they will save money overall by preventing diseases that cost more to treat. So the spend with your practice can increase while the total client pet spend decreases.
Industry data shows compliance in preventive care is much lower than we think. Take a look at your practice’s compliance; you will discover a great opportunity to provide more preventive care for your patients and grow your revenue, all while less expensive in the long run for your clients. Everyone wins.
Key success factors
Here are a few tips for a successful preventive care program:
- Create your practice annual preventive care guidelines.
- Put the guidelines in writing. Train them. Post them.
- Decide on the number of appointments needed each year to accomplish full compliance.
- Develop client communications for the total plan and each component. Keep it simple.
- Train the team and role-play client communications with each other.
- Share the annual plan with your clients. Keep talking points simple and easy to understand.
- Forward book appointments. Fill your schedule.
- Use practice management software to provide compliance data and send reminders.
- Keep your pricing competitive with the market but grow your volume.
- And you may even consider a specific employee designation as Preventive Care Advisor to educate clients and help lead and support the team to success.
Preventive care is good medicine and good business. It takes a plan and a focus to execute. The rewards of your hard work will be better patient care, increased practice revenue, and overall savings for your clients.