The COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives in ways that can’t be undone—our entire outlook and attitudes toward relationships with coworkers, friends, and family, and the value of our time changed tremendously as we faced ongoing danger. In veterinary medicine, we experienced sharply increased demand, decreased ability to meet that demand, and concerned, distressed, and angry clientele trying to find care for their sick pets. Our VESPECON staff specialists were no exception.
Veterinary specialists were already in short supply, with routine pre-COVID wait times from one to two weeks to several months. Pandemic-era changes increased these wait times dramatically as veterinary staff struggled to keep up, resulting in double and triple booked schedules, extra-long days, and more patients requiring emergency work-in visits. Many practices are still grappling with these problems, plus an unexpected pandemic side effect—increased no-show appointments. VESPECON understands that no-shows impact your schedule and your bottom line, and we offer solutions to help you combat this ongoing issue.
#1: Implement a deposit policy
Asking every new patient owner for a deposit may be impractical, but targeting repeat offenders is a necessity. Flag no-show clients in your practice management software with a pop-up note, so the reception team can identify them if they want to schedule another appointment. Decide whether to take 25%, 50%, or 100% of an initial consultation cost, and let the client know you will deduct this amount from their visit, but they will not be refunded if they fail to show or to cancel with adequate notice.
#2: Double- and triple-confirm appointments
If you confirm visits with a simple call and leave-a-message system, consider signing up for a service that allows you to send confirmation emails or text messages. Clients are more likely to respond to electronic messages in a timely manner, and you can still call to double-confirm a few days later. When reception staff books new clients, ensure they obtain two phone numbers and an email address to be contacted prior to appointments.
Doubling up on confirmations can weed out clients who make an appointment with you, get in somewhere else, and forget to cancel with you, or clients whose pets have since passed away—which could have been weeks or months prior. If you still have unconfirmed appointments despite multiple contact attempts, consider giving emergency or work-in patients these time slots so you don’t lose no-show revenue. Should both appointments show up, ensure the work-in client understands ahead of time they will likely have to wait.
#3: Help clients understand the value of an appointment slot
Consider emphasizing in confirmation calls the importance of keeping appointments or canceling in an acceptable time frame. Clearly state to the owner that their scheduled arrival time is reserved only for their pet, and canceling or rescheduling in advance allows you to give the spot to someone else in need. If you already have missed appointment or last-minute cancellation fees, this is the time to mention them.
#4: Start a wait list
Non-urgent cases are typically scheduled in the next available slot, but many clients find this difficult to accept. They were told to see the specialist ASAP, and they likely will panic if their beloved pet has to wait several weeks for an appointment. Adding these clients to a wait list for a possible spot that opens up can help them feel better.
Multiple confirmations can eliminate some no-shows by catching those who have forgotten or scheduled elsewhere, but these cancellations then become empty spots. You can fill those spots with clients from the waitlist, reminding the client to call and cancel any appointments with other area specialists to avoid causing no-shows there.
#5: Let VESPECON manage your schedule
Our service focuses on improving primary veterinarians’ access to specialist collaboration, and streamlining the referral process for veterinarians and clients. General practitioners who join and use our services can consult with our virtual specialist team, who will guide them through initial diagnostics and treatments, or we can coordinate an in-person referral, when required, and drop patients into predetermined time slots in your schedule. When you see a VESPECON patient on the schedule, you can rest assured they’ve been pre-screened, worked up, and are prepared for services only your office can provide. VESPECON clients are bonded with the referring veterinarian and committed to their patient’s care, so they’re less likely to be a no-show and ruin your day’s schedule.
If you’re ready to see how VESPECON can streamline appointment booking and improve your daily patient flow, contact us to get started.