For several years, I have been coaching practices to forward book their patients. This coaching has been met with mixed reactions and results. The veterinary practices who embrace the concept and succeed have considerably lower lapsed patient rates, along with better control over their schedule.
What is forward booking?
Forward booking is the practice of scheduling an appointment for a patient before they leave the current appointment. A forward booked appointment could be 3 weeks from now, 6 months from now, or even 1 year from now. In other medical professions such as dentistry and optometry, forward booking is widely practiced and well-received by both medical professionals and their patients. When was the last time you left your dentist’s office without an appointment for your next visit? When a patient is forward booked, you are reserving space for their next visit, making it easy for the client to return without having to remember to call you to schedule their next appointment.
How do you know you are succeeding at forward booking?
Traditionally, it has been next to impossible to determine how well a veterinary practice team is doing, when it comes to forward booking. However, VetSuccess has solved this problem by providing practices with their forward booking rate on their monthly Practice Overview Report. Each month, the forward booking rate is calculated based on the number of patients who were seen that month, that have an upcoming appointment.
In March 2017, the average forward booking rate for more than 1,000 veterinary practices was 12%. I know that number can become dramatically better because there are teams who are already surpassing the average by leaps and bounds. With a forward booking rate of 65%, the team at Park West Veterinary Associates in Mt. Pleasant, SC is doing just that!
The Journey Forward
Park West Veterinary Associates embraced forward booking nearly eight years ago. After realizing that our own dentists and optometrists managed to forward book without a problem, practice manager Marian Rowland, CVPM discussed the topic with her team. At Park West, the team takes the approach of “what’s good for the pet is good for the practice; what’s good for the practice is good for the staff”. When they discuss change, they measure their intentions against the good of the patient, practice, and staff. Forward booking became a no-brainer, as they realized that bringing pets back meant best patient care.
Rather than make a big deal out of forward booking, Marian says the team takes the approach of laying out a plan for every patient. With the plan in mind, they let clients know when they need to see their pet again, and they let them know that they’ll take care of scheduling. Instead of writing out an appointment card, or even verbalizing the next appointment to the client, they simply say “Nice to see you! We’ll see you in ______ weeks, or months, or next year.” Then they follow the simple rule of: same doctor, same day of the week, same time. This helps them to schedule an appointment that makes the most sense for the client’s convenience. They use their practice management software program Rapport (Avimark) to set up appointment reminders that begin approximately one month ahead of the scheduled appointment. “Rapport has been extremely helpful in making our pre-appointing work well for the team, and our clients”.
Marian credits her team’s success with always starting with “why”; why the veterinarian needs to see each pet again, when it comes to a patient’s preventive and on-going health care plan. “Our clients appreciate that we take care of their appointments, and they don’t have to remember to call us to schedule their pet’s care.”
It’s Okay to Be Forward
Now that you can track your team’s success at forward booking, don’t you think it’s time to get on board? Forward booking improves patient health and wellness by assuring pets in your care come back when they need to be seen again. With Park West’s approach, there’s no pushback or conflict; clients welcome the ease of forward booking. Teach your team to follow the rule of “same doctor, same day, same time”, and watch them succeed!