Are You Making These Two Mistakes and Costing Your Clinic Thousands?

Reminder calls and refilling preventives can result in impressive revenue boost.

Originally published in the March 2015 issue of Veterinary Practice News? Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Did you know that 77 percent of pet owners would buy products that you recommend?1 Too often, veterinary teams overlook opportunities for preventive care. Here are two common mistakes, the potential income loss and how to fix them.

Mistake 1: Failure to Make Overdue Reminder Calls

When patients don’t get regular checkups, doctors miss opportunities to diagnose other health problems that are frequently identified during routine exams, such as dentistry, obesity, arthritis and ear infections.

Potential income loss: $308,238

How to fix: On Monday mornings, managers should give receptionists a list of clients to call with pets that are overdue for preventive care. At the end of the week, receptionists will turn in completed lists.

Don’t overwhelm staff with reams of people to call. Let’s say you give each receptionist 25 calls to make, and she has the workweek to complete the task. That’s only five calls per day—completely manageable!

Your greatest success will be with patients that have just fallen into the third reminder cycle and are only three weeks overdue. Proper etiquette is to call clients between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dial cell phones first because you’re more likely to reach clients and will need to have two-way conversations to book appointments.

If you get voicemail, leave this message: “This is <your name> calling for the doctors at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. We are worried that <pet name> is past due for his preventive care exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing and preventives, and he might now be unprotected. Will you please call us this week at 555-555-5555 to schedule his exam?”

Traits of an average veterinary hospital

40% of dogs and 48% of cats do not get regular preventive care exams2
2 doctors3
1,200 active clients per doctor3
1.5 pets per client3
60% dogs3

  • 2,160 canine patients
  • $208 spent on an exam, vaccines and diagnostics for an adult dog age 1 to 64
  • 864 dogs without preventive care x $208 each = $179,712
40% cats3

  • 1,440 feline patients
  • $186 spent on an exam, vaccines and diagnostics for an adult cat age 1 to 64
  • 691 cats without preventive care x $186 each = $128,526
Totals $308,238 in missed preventive care

If you talk with the client, say: “This is <your name> calling for the doctors at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. <Pet name> is now overdue for his preventive care exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing and preventives. We’re worried about his health. When is a convenient time for you to come in for an exam this week? The doctor can see you at 6 p.m. Thursday or 9 a.m. Saturday. Which fits your schedule?”

The phrase “calling for the doctors” communicates that veterinarians are aware of the pet’s overdue status and are genuinely concerned. The warning of “may now be unprotected” is a call to action. Overdue vaccines, diagnostic tests and missed doses of preventives could put the pet’s health at risk.

Known as the two-yes-options technique, offering two exam times increases the chance you’ll schedule an appointment. This approach is stronger than, “Do you want to make an appointment?” which invites only a yes-or-no answer.

When describing overdue preventive care, focus on four categories: exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing and preventives. If you describe too many details during overdue reminder calls, the list could intimidate clients and cause them to hesitate to schedule exams.

Typical two-doctor practice

2,160 canine patients3
972 dogs missing preventatives
11,664 missing doses annually
$25 per dose for flea/tick and heartworm preventatives
Totals $291,600 in missed preventative income

Mistake 2: Failure to Refill Preventives

Product revenue can account for 25 percent of income in small animal hospitals.5 Only 55 percent of dogs are getting monthly heartworm preventives, with 5.4 doses dispensed per dog each year, according to the 2003 AAHA compliance study.6

Potential income loss: $291,600

How to fix: Promote refills at check-in. Look in your practice-management software and see when the client last purchased flea/tick and heartworm preventives as well as diets.

The receptionist would say, “Good morning, <client name>. I will let the doctor and technician know that you’ve arrived for your dog’s preventive care exam. I see that <pet’s name> needs refills on his flea/tick and heartworm preventives today. We will have the medications ready at checkout. Do you need any medications or food for your other pets?”

Remember, the average client has 1.5 pets. Refilling medications and food at check-in will increase compliance while saving clients return trips to your clinic.

Refill medications during exams. When the technician greets a client in the exam room, explain which services and products are due today. Say, “For your preventive care visit, we will do a nose-to-tail exam, vaccines, intestinal parasite screen, heartworm/tick test and refill 12 months of heartworm prevention. Is there anything else you want to discuss with the doctor today?”

Saying “We will refill” is a compliance technique that will get more pets on year-round protection. Be a patient advocate and proactively refill medication.

Explain the dollar value of free doses and rebates. Free equals zero unless you explain the value. Assign a dollar value such as “When you buy a six pack of <product name>, you’ll get two doses free—a value of $___” or “When you buy 12 doses of <product name> from our hospital, you’ll get $12 back from a mail-in rebate. That lowers your dog’s medication from $90 to $78.”

These statements promote the benefits of buying medications from your pharmacy.

Your practice manager should share statistics on preventive care exam compliance and preventives sales during staff meetings. This shows employees the results of their efforts to make overdue reminder calls and proactively promote preventative refills.


  1. AAHA releases study on product purchasing. DVM Magazine.  October 2002. Accessed 01-02-15 at
  2. Data on file. Communication Solutions for Veterinarians. 2013 study of 42 U.S. veterinary practices.
  3. Felsted, KE. Veterinary Teams & Clients: Facing Financial Facts, Today’s Veterinary Practice, accessed June 29, 2012, at
  4. AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 8th edition, AAHA Press 2013; pp. 55 and 59.
  5. Lee, JG. 4 Ways to Save Your Veterinary Pharmacy. Veterinary Economics. March 2013.  Accessed 01-04-15 at
  6. American Animal Hospital Association. Practice tips for improving compliance. Denver (CO): American Animal Hospital Association; 2003. The path to high-quality care.

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