As you know, our organization is a proud Associate Member of Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP) and we are very pleased to announce a collaborative program between PHP, Veterinary Medical Association Executives (VMAE) and our association. We believe this initiative will have a significant impact on the health of your patients and your practice.
This collaborative program focuses on the importance of forward booking, which simply means scheduling all patients’ next appointments before they leave your practice, regardless of the reason for their current visit. This includes medical progress exams and preventive healthcare exams. Forward booking ensures your patients receive the highest quality of care at the right time.
You have probably been hearing about and maybe even considering implementing forward booking in your practice, but are not quite sure how to get started.
We can help you!
To get started in your practice with implementation, visit the forward booking section on the Partners for Healthy Pets website http://www.partnersforhealthypets.org/forward_booking.aspx. Download the document titled, “The Key to Forward Booking Appointments: Unlock the Potential of a Best Practice For Your Practice.” This gives you a simple, step-by-step approach to how to use the handful of tools available to you to provide your practice team with the skills necessary to be successful. Ready. Set. Forward Book!
We are very excited to provide this opportunity to you and your practice. By using these tools, you will be able to easily implement forward booking in your practice.
The result? Healthier patients and a healthier practice! But does it work?
Below are a few Q&A about forward booking from Alpine Animal Hospital, a thriving, AAHA- accredited mixed animal practice with five veterinarians and 12 staff members. Mary Fox, MBA, who characterizes Carbondale, CO, as “a fabulous town” and serves as Alpine’s hospital administrator, recently shared her observations about successfully implementing forward booking into the protocols and culture of their hospital.
Q: How did your practice implement forward booking?
A: It was a process, and it took some time because part of it was spending time with the staff
to figure out practice goals and values, and how we express them in a positive way. We quickly
learned that if we talked about forward booking in isolation and didn’t attach it to preventive
healthcare, the staff thought it seemed pushy. Once we got staff buy-in that they were acting
in the best interest of the patients, they started to feel comfortable and confident talking about
Q: What was the biggest barrier to implementation?
A: First, the staff did not want to be “pushy salespeople.” Second, communication in the
practice needed improvement. The front desk often did not know what the next step was in the
preventive healthcare process so we improved the communication between our receptionists
and our exam room team. We now use the code “RTG” in our software system, which stands
for “Ready To Go.” No patient can leave without that code, and next to the code the doctor
indicates the next steps in the patient’s healthcare.
Q: How does forward booking tie into your patient reminder system?
A: We’re right in the middle of evaluating the process of how we want to remind our clients.
We have a new communication platform, which starts with an email reminder, then goes to a
text, then a call. Once the appointment is confirmed, the client doesn’t receive any other
messages. Because we use all mediums (email, text, phone), a lot fewer cards go out, which
saves us time and money. In the beginning, the staff was very tentative about asking for client
email addresses. It’s taken about a year, but now they say to clients, “and your email address
is…” without becoming apologetic.
What has also been important is for our staff to be unafraid of saying to the client what the
patient needs. The best care for the pet should not be posed as a question, rather it’s “here’s
what’s best for your pet.” You have to believe in providing the best care and then it’s natural to
say, “let’s schedule that exam” instead of asking for permission.
Q: How good is the practice at forward booking?
A: 90% there! It took two years because our goal is to help our staff understand that we’re all
in this together. It’s really a switch in practice culture, which will have a longer lasting effect
than just dictating protocols to the staff.
Q: Any other advice for practices?
A: Have definite, purposeful goals that will bring your team together – Why are we here? What
do we want our culture to be? Then, build it out and ask, “How do we accomplish this?” Sure
enough, you circle back to where you started and the initial things that were difficult to
implement, you either find they fit in or they don’t and you reject them. We are always trying
to do things better.