Practice modernization: Forward booking
What is pre-booking or forward booking? It’s scheduling a patient’s next appointment (preventive exam or medical progress exam) during check-out of the current appointment.
Where did this concept come from?
Dentist offices have used this method of forward booking appointments successfully for many years. It is now standard practice at most dentist offices. At check-out, a receptionist may say, “Dr. Jones would like to see you back for your next dental cleaning in six months. Does Tuesday, February 5th work for you?”
How did dentists implement it so successfully?
- It is a standard part of checking-out or completing a visit at the dentist office.
- It occurs every time, for every patient.
- Patients recognize that dental health is important to overall health.
- All dentist staff members place importance on forward booking appointments.
Benefits of forward booking to patient and client:
Improved health management: The responsibility of remembering to book an annual exam in one year or having an ear infection rechecked in 10 days no longer lies on the client. The appointment has been arranged and set already, so the patient’s health will not be forgotten with the hustle and bustle of everyday lives.
Better preventive care: Routine preventive exams are important so that problems can be prevented or caught early. Scheduling preventive exams before the client leaves ensures that the patient has set health check points at appropriate intervals.
Better follow-up on concerns: Scheduling a medical progress exam for a concern prior to the patient leaving the practice ensures that the patient receives follow-up care and recommendations. For example, a patient that is diagnosed with an ear infection should have a 7-10 day medical progress exam scheduled when checking out.
Helps client pick preferred doctor for appointments: Many clients have a preferred doctor at a multi-doctor practice. Arranging appointments for with their preferred doctors is a benefit to forward booking, for both the client and for the consistency of patient care.
Benefits to practice
- Fuller appointment schedule
- More predictable schedule (able to see the workload days prior)
- More revenue (increasing the number of forward booked appointments by 5% could create about $40,000 additional revenue according to the AAHA State of the Industry report)
- Doctors have scheduled opportunities to follow-up on patients and provide additional recommendations in difficult cases
- Increases client retention
Ways team members can implement this concept
Reception – When checking a client out, ask when they would like his/her next appointment scheduled. Reference the discharge notes from the doctor if client needs prompting.
Technician/assistant – When discharging the patient, the technician or assistant should remind the client to book the next appointment with the front desk. They can reiterate that this is when the doctor recommended seeing the patient next.
Veterinarian – Discuss with client at end of the office visit when the next time the patient needs to be seen. Remind them the importance of preventive health exam and medical progress exams.
- At the bottom of every invoice or discharge instructions, there should be a place to write when next visit is recommended. The timing of the next appointment should be determined by the doctor.
- Appointment cards or having a section on the doctor’s business card for next appointment information is useful for clients that didn’t bring their calendar or want to put the reminder on their fridge.
- Remind clients of their scheduled appointment – ask for notification preference (text, email, or phone call).
- If clients are reluctant to schedule an appointment, remind them they can always call to reschedule.
How to get practices to implement Forward Booking
- Start with medical progress exams or cases in which a follow-up appointment is necessary in the next month.
- Once all team members are familiar with the process, begin to apply the process to preventive wellness exams, nail trims, and other routine procedures.
- Then apply the concept to ALL pets that visit the practice. No client should leave the clinic without at least the offer to book his/her next appointment.
How to sustain the concept of forward booking for practices?
- Discuss forward booking at a staff meeting so that the entire team understands the value and benefits
- Each team member should remind clients to forward book appointments to establish the expectation that forward booking is the new standard for veterinary medicine
- Use buttons, posters, and reminders to signal to clients the new standard. Posters and buttons available at the Partners for Healthy Pets website.
- Reinforce the concept to your team that letting a client walk away without arranging for his or her next visit, may result in him/her never setting foot inside the practice again.
- This website has a free poster, a staff meeting guide to introduce the concept, and a game to engage the staff.
- WSVMA Forward Booking – WSVMA
- Partners for Healthy Pets – Partners for Healthy Pets
- 7 reasons why your business should offer pre-booking – TimeTap
- The benefits of pre-booking – Canadian Veterinary Journal
- A short and sweet reminder about pre-booking appointments – WSVMA
- Pre-booking appointments: Bringing your team on board – 4 Patient Care
- Forward book every patient’s next preventive care exam – Communications Solutions
- Client Communication and Customer Service the Key to Retaining Clients – AAHA State of the Industry Report
- Book Ahead – Veterinary Advantage
- Forward-Booking Staff Meeting in a Box – VetSuccess
By Dr. Nicolle Perisho, member of the 2017-18 Power of Ten Leadership Academy
Posted November 21, 2018