Return Visits in Veterinary - The follow-up appointments
Follow up visits after a medical procedure or surgery are usually recommended to the pet owners. However, many a time the owners ignore these rechecks because they think it is not necessary and they might save some money. This can have a detrimental impact on the patient’s health. We as the animal care providers should not let that happen. Hence, in this article, we will shed light on the various aspects of pet owners' psychology and we will also discuss various ways to avoid no-shows on follow up visits or progress exams. This article is meant for veterinarians, practice managers, nurses and receptionists working in veterinary clinics.
Why pet owners miss the follow-up appointments
The answer is not so simple. There are various aspects involved in this. The prime reason they do not come again to the clinic is, they do not understand the criticality of it. And, it is the fault of the provider or the nurse who has failed to convey the importance of a follow-up visit. Let’s take an example, Dr. Miller performed an ACL repair procedure on Kiva. Then he told the owner Bethany, “You can bring Kiva for a progress exam next week. Tuesday or Wednesday should be fine.” Now, do you think Bethany will turn up next week? Maybe not. Why? Because she thinks the surgery is done. After 7 days the dog should be fine. Here the patient didn’t get the required healthcare. Also, the clinic lost the revenue it would have received from that followup visit.
How to avoid No-Shows on Rechecks
1. Clear communication:
Be very specific to your clients on why they need to bring their pets for repeat checkups. What is the exact procedure they will perform on the repeat visit? What will happen if they miss the appointment? What would be the typical cost of the recheck? You have to communicate with the clients these things before scheduling their repeat visits.
2. Collect the recheck fees beforehand:
During the first visit itself, you can charge them for the follow-up visit so that they do not miss it. This might annoy the clients, hence tell them why you are doing it. If they are not convinced, do not force them.
3. Avoid rechecks if not necessary:
I have seen a few of the veterinary hospitals asking pet owners to visit again just because it will be additional income for them. This is totally unethical practice. This might cause distrust among the pet owners. Do not cheat your clients just because you have to achieve your revenue target.
4. Remind pet owners:
Call the clients a day or two days before the day of the follow-up visit. Send over email, SMS, WhatsApp to so that they do not miss it.
5. Offer Free Recheckups:
Let’s say it is just a regular progress exam that will not take much time. You can do it for free. If the client has spent huge money on surgery, it wouldn’t be fair to charge the client for a small follow-up visit. However, sometimes the client may think that if it is free then it might not be important. You must communicate to the client how critical the progress exam is before offering a free checkup.
6. Reduce the waiting time:
Do not make the clients wait for a long time if they have come for a small routine follow-up. This encourages other clients to come for the rechecks when they see you give more priority to routine checkups. As rechecks take less time than regular appointments, it makes no sense to make them wait long.
7. Build rapport with clients:
Do you know your clients by their first name? Do you get invited to their pet’s birthday party? Do your clients trust you? If yes, then your job is done, your clients will never miss follow-up visits.
If the clients do not show up for rechecks, the clinic’s revenue takes a hit. Also, it may have an adverse impact on the patient’s health in some cases. Hence, all the stakeholders of veterinary clinics must work towards it and make sure the clients do not miss such appointments. It requires a change in the approach of how we handle customers. We must take it very seriously.