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Using technology to improve communication with pet parents

By Scott Harper

How to use communications software for retention and compliance.
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Veterinary practices that have implemented practice management technology recognize the value of gaining efficiencies and streamlining workflow. But did you know technology can also enable practices to deliver better health outcomes and fight back against the under-consumption of veterinary care?

The right communications platform can help practices educate pet parents, streamline scheduling and appointment reminders, and even generate revenue. Here's how to leverage today's leading communication technology to connect with your clients.

Adapt to communication preferences

Automated appointment reminder communications empower pet owners to take charge of their pets' health, so they stay compliant with recommended visit schedules. In fact, among millennial pet owners in one survey, 51.5 percent preferred to get appointment reminders via text, yet only 25.2 percent received such notifications.

Consider just one use case for the almost 90 percent of dog owners that our proprietary research has found not  to be compliant with clinical recommendations for dental services. Knowing that periodontal disease can lead to bacteria in the bloodstream, affect the pet's vital organs and even shorten the dog's life, could closing this communication gap also lead to better compliance for pet preventive care?

Meeting pet parents where they are in terms of communication preferences is the first step in getting them into the office. And the client education that can help solve additional compliance-related challenges often happens through client communication. Timely, client-focused communications technology can encourage pet owners to take charge of their pet's overall wellness.

Create demand for care

Veterinary practices can also use client communications tools to mine their data for additional opportunities to provide care to their current customer base. This opens up new avenues for revenue, without having to market to new patients or worry about competitors' activities.

If a veterinary practice can use technology to encourage pet owners to visit their practice for vaccines, could that also turn into wellness exams? Would prescriptions for heartworm medications increase? How many more times would diseases, such as cancer, be detected earlier?

Moreover, in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, practices must brace for demand shock with the eventual influx of customers who have delayed care due to stay-at-home orders. Instead of waiting for next year or facing an onslaught of appointments once human health concerns subside, practices can use a retention calendar to proactively search for and schedule out appointments.

Scheduling offers a valuable window of time for more care opportunities. When calling pet parents to remind them of their appointment, staff can ask if they'd like to bring in their other pets at the same time. Our research has shown that the average veterinary practice has nearly a dozen opportunities per day to schedule an appointment for a pet that is currently past-due and lives in the household of a client who is already bringing in a different pet that day. Retention software can proactively highlight opportunities for veterinary practices to create more appointments, creating whole household care.

Facilitate client relationships

Communication doesn't stop once the animals have arrived for their appointments. Two-way, secure texting services facilitate conversations and stronger relationships between vets and clients. Under social distancing protocols put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many veterinarians are asking owners to drop their pets off for appointments and wait in parking lots. With the right communications technology, veterinarians can still apprise clients of developments.

Communications that would have been made face-to-face in the office are now made over smartphones, including sharing photos. If prescriptions are ordered, practices can use two-way text features to notify pet owners when medications are ready and remind them about any follow-up visits.

Ideally, your communications software should integrate with practice management technology. Patient portals give your clients all their pets' vital information right at their fingertips. Pet parents can log in via a smartphone app or secure, web-based portal to request appointments, refill medication, view their pet's recommended visit schedule and read important announcements from your practice. Such technology educates clients on their pet's medical needs, empowering them to keep on top of appointments.

Making the most of technology

As a veterinary practice owner, you likely already use some form of technology. When you harness the right tools to reach pet parents in a way that doesn't disrupt their daily routines or add to your practice manager's workload, you can boost business and improve the level of care your veterinary practice delivers without having to market to new clients.

Client-focused communications

Technology offerings to help veterinary practices connect with pet owners.