You finish surgery Wednesday morning, call clients with updates and eat lunch at your desk while finishing medical records from today’s procedures. You glance at the afternoon schedule and see only two exams. You’ve got four employees working until 6 p.m. Should you cut your losses and send half of the staff home early? Absolutely not!
Veterinary technicians, assistants, receptionists and doctors need to start dialing. Call clients about necessary follow-up care. Besides improving patient care, callbacks generate immediate revenue. Here are four callbacks designed for every position:
What Veterinarians Should Do
Call about patients with chronic conditions. Search your practice-management software for patients with diabetes, arthritis, cardiomyopathy, thyroid disease, cancer, kidney disease and other chronic ailments. Scan electronic medical records before you dial to see which reminders are coming due. Even if no services are due, simply call to let clients know that you care about their pets. Goodwill can guarantee future visits.
Say, “This is Dr. <name> calling from <your veterinary hospital>. I was just thinking of Oliver and wanted to see how he is feeling. I want to help you successfully manage his diabetes. What questions can I answer about the insulin injections or care that you’re providing at home? How are Oliver’s appetite, weight, water consumption and urine output? (Client responds).
“We need to see Oliver next month to check his blood glucose levels. Let me connect you to the receptionist who will schedule an appointment. If you have questions or concerns about Oliver, please call us. We appreciate the opportunity to care for Oliver.”
What Veterinary Technicians Should Call About
Call about drug-monitoring tests. When filling the first longterm prescription, the technician should take two steps to increase compliance. First, enter reminders for future drug-monitoring tests. Clients then would receive postal and email reminders one month before testing is due. Next, the technician would note the number of refills available in the computer and medical record.
If the veterinarian wants to perform a blood test every six months and the technician is filling a one-month supply, five refills of 30 tablets would remain. The number of refills will print on each prescription label. When dispensing the last refill, place a fluorescent sticker on the vial that states, “Blood work required before next refill.” Get 500 labels for less than $10 here.
If clients haven’t responded to reminders, technicians would call one week before testing is due and say, “This is <technician name> from <your veterinary hospital>. We saw Bentley six months ago, and Dr. <name> needs to recheck his thyroid level. During a technician appointment, we’ll collect a blood sample and run the thyroid test. Drug monitoring is necessary for Bentley to continue to safely take his medicine and is required before the next refill. Bentley will be out of thyroid medication next week. We could see you tomorrow at 10 a.m. or 5 p.m. Which choice is convenient for you?”
Use the two-yes-options technique to guide pet owners to schedule blood draws. Too often, clients wait until all the pills are gone to call for refills. To avoid the stress of urgent refills, proactively remind about drug monitoring with postcards, emails and phone calls.
What Exam Assistants Should Follow Up On
Follow up on ear infections. Your veterinarian diagnosed a dog’s ear infection today. As the exam assistant, you showed the client how to clean her dog’s ears and apply ointment for treatment at home. The pet owner follows your instructions perfectly for three days. When the dog quits shaking her head, she stops treatment. A few weeks later, the ear infection returns and is worse.
To ensure treatment is occurring at home, the exam assistant should call the client on Day 3 and Day 10. Just as you use doctor codes to track production in your practice-management software, use staff codes to note every team member who worked with a patient. Callbacks are assigned to the employee who delivered the care.
In this scenario, the exam assistant would be responsible for the callback. When the client checks out on the day of diagnosis, the receipt would list the doctor’s name and also state, “Your exam assistant today was Kevin” and “Your client service representative today was Stephanie.” This personalizes the visit and builds client relationships with your team.
Besides checking on home care, the exam assistant could schedule the medical progress exam if an appointment was not made at checkout.
When calling the client on Day 3, the exam assistant would say, “Have you been able to clean Daisy’s ears daily and use the ointment? Has Daisy stopped shaking her head? (Client responds yes.) That means the medicine is starting to work. Be sure to finish the entire 10 days of treatment. Stopping treatment could cause the ear infection to return and worsen. Finishing treatment is just as important as when your physician has prescribed 10 days of antibiotics when you are sick. Sometimes people stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, but you really need the full 10 days of therapy. The same is true for ear infections in dogs.”
The phrase “starting to work” reminds the client to continue treatment for the full course. Comparing treatment to human medicine experiences increases client understanding.
The exam assistant would call again on Day 10 and say, “This is <assistant name> calling from <your veterinary hospital>. Congratulations on completing treatment at home for Daisy’s ear infection. I’m calling to see how Daisy is feeling. (Client responds.) Dr. <name> will see Daisy on Fridayat 2 p.m. for her medical progress exam to make sure the infection has healed. We’ll also teach you preventive care that you can do at home to avoid future ear infections.”
Use benefit statements to reinforce the need for follow-up care. This callback also serves as an appointment confirmation call.
What Receptionists Should Talk About With Clients
Call about patients with overdue reminders. Be a patient advocate and call when pets are three weeks late. Don’t wait three months, when care is no longer a priority for clients. Overdue vaccines, diagnostic tests and missed doses of preventives could put pets’ health at risk. In addition to safeguarding patients’ health, preventive exams protect your practice’s health. Each checkup could generate hundreds in professional service and product sales.
Always dial cell phones first because you’re more likely to reach clients and can have a two-way conversation to schedule care. When calling cell phones, contact clients between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. If you’re calling home phones, dial between 5 and 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. You can reach clients arriving home from work during the week or on Saturday mornings before weekend errands.
If you get voicemail, leave this message: “This is <receptionist name> calling for the doctors at <your veterinary hospital>. We are worried that Sampson is past due for his exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing and preventives and might be unprotected. Will you please call us this week at <phone number> to schedule his appointment?”
The phrase “calling for the doctors” communicates that your 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. “Call us this week” creates urgency.
If you reach the client, say, “This is <your name> calling for the doctors at <your veterinary hospital>. Sampson is now overdue for his exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing and preventives. We’re worried about his health. When is a convenient time for you to come in for an appointment this week? The doctor can see you at 6 p.m. Thursday or 9 a.m. Saturday. Which is convenient for you?”
The two-yes-options technique increases the chance you’ll schedule an appointment. This approach is stronger than “Do you want to make an appointment?” which is a yes-or-no choice.
When describing overdue preventive care, focus on four categories: exam, vaccines, diagnostic testing and preventives. If you describe too many details, the list could intimidate clients and they won’t schedule appointments. Simply say the pet is overdue for testing rather than specifics such as an intestinal parasite screen, heartworm/tick screen and senior preventive blood and urine screen. The doctor and technician can explain diagnostics during the appointment and answer questions.
Your goal is to be fully booked every day. Each morning, look ahead to the next four days of exams. Where do you have gaps? On Monday, the hospital manager sees that one doctor has Thursday afternoon completely open. Email employees or have a morning huddle to encourage everyone to fill the empty slots. Busy days let you help more pets while growing hospital revenue.
Originally published in the March 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!
Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. She helps teams improve client service, communication skills and compliance through consulting, seminars and monthly CE credit webinars. Her latest book is “101 Communication Skills for Veterinary Teams.” Her new “Callers Into New Clients Course” teaches receptionists how to turn more price shoppers into lifetime clients. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.csvets.com.