Pet owner views about pet health subjects can change over time. Misconceptions can come along, or assumptions may develop. So, the power of automated veterinary appointment reminder systems to help improve compliance and preventive care involves more than the technology to easily send pet health reminders, mass communications, and other functionality that saves staff time and improves practice efficiency. That’s just the mechanism. To reduce no-shows, increase preventive care, and improve compliance, automated veterinary appointment reminders ultimately involve:
- The messaging being sent to clients.
- What pet health information may accompany messages.
- What that information may or may not address against any changes in how a client may be thinking since the last time you communicated with them.
Findings in our recent blog, Addressing Pet Vaccine Hesitancy: How Veterinarians Can Educate Pet Owners, serves as an illustration.
According to Improve International, hesitancy toward pet vaccination has increased over the past few years, due in no small part to the pandemic. As anti-vaccine views and misinformation about human vaccines developed during COVID, the influence spiraled outward to impact views of pet vaccines.
You may have clients that have regularly brought their pets in for core vaccinations. So, if they’re due for a return visit, short pet health reminders for them to make an appointment may seem like enough, and indeed they may. Yet some clients may have developed second thoughts about pet vaccinations since their last visit, meaning a short reminder may not be enough. To encourage preventive care, your message may need to include brief reminder information about why vaccinations are important or speak to specific client questions or concerns, such as:
- What is a vaccine?
- How do vaccines work?
- Are vaccines safe and effective?
In other words, building an effective automated veterinary appointment reminder system involves building and maintaining relevant client messaging as needed to improve compliance and preventive care. It involves strategy, ideally addressing the top reason why many pet owners don’t make regular veterinary appointments.
Many Pet Owners Believe Their Pets Are Fine
According to the AVMA’s recent pet demographics survey, nearly 30% of pet owners don’t regularly bring their pets to see a veterinarian because they believe their pets are fine and don’t understand the value or need for preventive care by a veterinarian. Within this group (covering a variety of species):
- Nearly 20% of dog owners don’t see a veterinarian at least once a year.
- Nearly half of cats (46%) don’t see a veterinarian annually.
“The better job we do talking about the importance of preventive care with clients,” writes Veterinary Management Groups President Matthew Salois in a recent article for dvm360, “the better chance we have of reducing the number who don’t bring in their pets just because they weren’t sick or injured,” which circles back to communication strategy and relevant pet health reminders.
Take the subject of cat health and pet owner perceptions.
“The biggest reason for the disparity between cat and dog vet visits is due to the perception of cats by their owners,” says Dr. Mondrian Contreras in a 2023 interview with The Huffington Post. “Many cat owners see these pets as low maintenance, and if they don’t see anything glaringly abnormal, they feel they are healthy.”
As understandable as this is, animal health professionals know that cats have an instinctual drive to hide or mask pain, meaning a cat may not be fine. By including information about the feline inclination to hide pain in pet health reminders, attaching a relevant client education handout, or linking to relevant information on your veterinary website, you provide a service to clients that underscores the value of a veterinary exam and encourage preventive care. Yet more than this, you begin strengthening your practice in a larger light as a trusted source of pet health information, which encourages appointments, compliance, and preventive care through a strengthened veterinary-client relationship.
Misconceptions naturally aren’t the only reason why many pet owners forego veterinary appointments.
For Many Pet Owners, It’s About the Money
According to the 2022 AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, 15% of pet owners don’t regularly visit a veterinarian for two financial reasons:
- They do not have the money to cover veterinary costs.
- They believe veterinary care costs more than it’s worth.
Though the common thread is money, the two reasons are different in nature.
- The first indicates pet owners who may indeed want to make regular veterinary appointments for their pets. They simply lack the financial means.
- The second equally indicates pet owners who may want to make regular appointments. They simply need to be shown the value of investing in veterinary care.
So, the two groups require different approaches when sending veterinary appointment reminders and other client communications.
- For the first group, you may wish to accompany pet health reminders with information about payment or financing options your practice may have or available assistance programs like the Farley Foundation.
- For the second group, you may wish to remind clients about the value of preventive care and early detection versus unexpected and greater pet health costs that can occur down the road.
The overall thing to keep in mind about both groups: They’re not objecting to veterinary spending. They’re resistant.
Case in point: A recent survey by ConsumerAffairs found that 78% of pet owners would consider going into debt if needed for their pet. Though the survey reported food and treats as the top monthly expense for pet owners, veterinary costs came in second, covering preventive veterinary visits, prescriptions, and emergency pet care.
Said another way: Despite inflation, many pet owners still want to make and keep veterinary appointments because they love their pets and want to ensure they’re happy and healthy. They may simply need help or a better understanding of veterinary-care value. When you provide this information in your pet health reminders and use targeted communications based on your practice management software to send the right information to the right clients, you address resistance, which helps increase appointments, improve compliance, and elevates preventive care.
The other thing to keep in mind is that resistance decreases according to income category.
According to JAVMA News, roughly 20% of dog owners with an annual household income of $20,000 – $39,000 do not see a veterinarian once a year. Yet this percentage steadily decreases as you move up the income ladder. Only 7% of dog owners in the $100,000-plus category reported not seeing a veterinarian at least once a year, prompting the AVMA to write, “A potential approach for expanding access to care is by creating models of veterinary medicine that support a spectrum of care, delivering care at levels other than just the gold standard.”
Many Pet Owners Simply Forget About Appointments
Many clients don’t need convincing in pet health reminders to make and keep veterinary appointments. They’re onboard. Yet even the most dedicated pet owners get busy and forget about veterinary appointments. So, this one is straightforward. To increase preventive care and compliance, you simply need to ensure your client communication system efficiently tracks and sends out appointment reminders in a timely manner.
Building an Effective Automated Veterinary Appointment Reminder System
Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous architectural axiom “form follows function” applies to veterinary appointment reminder systems.
Given the many forms of pet owners, their varying informational and communication needs, and the many needs of busy practices, the overall form of needs points to a fundamental list of key features that practices should have or seek when building or updating a veterinary appointment reminder system, including:
- Automated communication scheduling to reduce admin time for staff so they can focus more on patient care.
- Synchronization with your practice management software (PIMS) to pull client and patient information while keeping data safe, plus alerts notifying your team of missing information within your PIMS.
- Mass communication templates to save time tailoring client communications based on data from your PIMS and support better ongoing pet health.
- Automatic flagging of appointment booking opportunities to increase preventive care, save staff time, and improve practice efficiency.
- Analytics to empower data-driven decision-making and identify actionable communication opportunities.
- A practice-branded mobile app that links to your communication system to streamline practice efficiency by giving clients access to pet health records, appointment requests, prescription refills, and more.
- Client surveys to gather client feedback and make any necessary messaging adjustments to ensure your practice communications are strongly resonating with clients.
Building an effective automated veterinary appointment reminder system also involves the ability to message clients on communication channels they prefer, and two-way texting is an especially important channel in that many people prefer texts.
- According to 2022 survey results by SimpleTexting, 61% of people prefer two-way texting with businesses over simple direct messaging.
- Where the average phone call takes 90 seconds, the average text takes only 13 seconds to send, which significantly reduces admin time for practices.
If you’re unfamiliar with the difference between two-way texting and direct messaging:
- Even though regular texting apps keep lists of contacts and allow two-way communications, they’re basically designed for one-one-one communications. There’s no simple, centralized way to keep track of communications and manage them all to make sure you’re contacting and following up with clients in a timely manner to optimize appointment reminders, and each message takes time to manually type.
- Two-way texting allows practices a fast and easy way to communicate appointment reminders and other important information like surgery status to pet owners in real time, and with the ability to track, manage, and resend pet health reminders, practices can ensure text communications are optimized to improve preventive care and compliance.
Bringing It All Together in One System to Manage Pet Health Reminders
At this point, you may be asking one of two questions:
- “Where’s the Tylenol?”
- “How do I find all the features and functionality covered in this blog in one system to easily manage pet health reminders and other client communications?”
If you’re asking the first question, that’s understandable. Given the scope and complexity of how modern communications happen, it can feel head-spinning. (We don’t know if that’s a real adjective, but we feel it’s fitting.)
If you’re asking the second question, it aligns with solid investment.
The future of veterinary communications (and communications in general) is only going to remain multi-faceted. Pet owner communication preferences may shift from one channel to another over time but the channels themselves are not going to disappear. If anything, they’re going to expand. So, it makes sound financial sense for practices to invest in one system of pet health reminders that covers all communications bases versus opting for something simpler—only to scramble around down the road to upgrade that system or switch to another, incur more cost, and interrupt practice operations in the process by throwing a new learning curve into the mix.
There are certainly many one-stop pet health reminder systems to choose from, but for the reasons covered above (and more), many practices choose AllyDVM Client Communication + Retention Software, the most powerful and customizable client engagement in the veterinary industry.
The AllyDVM Difference
AllyDVM is the only client communication and retention software for veterinarians that has AllyDVM’s industry-leading Retention Calendar, which saves time and improves efficiency for practice teams by automatically pulling client and patient data, identifying client reminder and appointment opportunities, and prompting your team to book past-due appointments.
In addition to mass communication templates, automatic message scheduling, analytics, PIMS synchronization, and other features found here, AllyDVM includes the PetPage Patient Portal®, which serves pet owners and practices in many ways, including:
- Reduced practice workload: Self-serve tools available 24/7 for clients like one-click appointment requests and prescription refills save time for busy practice teams and provide the convenience clients want and expect.
- Complete client service: PetPage meets and exceeds client expectations for access to their pet’s health care information wherever they are.
- Better practice revenue: When clients literally hold a connection with your practice wherever they are, they’re better engaged, which reduces no-shows and improves preventive care, compliance, and practice revenue.
You can click here to find out more about AllyDVM, but the main point is this.
Automated pet health reminder systems don’t just offer the value of convenience to veterinary teams. They offer the same value to pet owners, and to better understand the appeal of this to pet owners, it’s important to step back and look at automated veterinary reminder systems within the larger picture of veterinary technology and the underlying factor propelling its growth.
Technology and Consumer-Friendly Business Models Are Driving Market Growth
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global pet care market (valued at almost $247 billion in 2023) is projected to grow to almost $369 billion by 2030, and as evidenced by a recent report by Global Market Insights, technological advancements are chiefly driving this growth. A few examples:
- Pet owners are spending heavily on automated feeding systems for dogs.
- They’re gravitating toward virtual pet sitters and pet tech toys that enable them to remotely play and stay engaged with pets.
- They’re purchasing pet activity and location trackers and notification systems.
Said more simply, more pet owners now value—and pay for—things that will do things for them, and automated pet health reminders fall into this same category of value because they reduce work for pet owners. “Robust communications and convenient services,” writes AmerisourceBergen, “create a client-centered focus,” and when clients feel engaged with practices and more involved in conversations about the health of their pets, preventive care, compliance, and appointments tend to improve.
Pet owners are also expected to spend more on veterinary care.
In contrast to Fortune Business Insights’ prediction that the global pet care market will grow to almost $369 billion by 2030, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Pet Economy Report projects that the global pet care market will reach almost $500 billion by 2030. “This growth, notes the report, “is driven by an increase in spending on pet-related healthcare—including veterinary care, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals,” and in relation to this, AmerisourceBergen writes, “Good relationships and good veterinary-client communications correlate with better veterinary patient outcomes,” adding, “Better client education and client service also lead to higher satisfaction and retention.”
What It All Comes Down To
Playing catch-up is never an ideal position for any business. The landscape of veterinary-client communications is changing. Client needs and expectations are shifting. Staffing remains a challenge at many practices, and time-savings and efficiency remain important practice needs as the future approaches. So, while you likely already have a system of pet health reminders in place, it makes sense from a future proofing and efficiency perspective to step back and re-evaluate your client communication system to make sure your practice is set up for success.
To help you do that, here’s a recap of what we covered in this blog:
- The power of automated veterinary appointment reminder systems to improve preventive care, compliance, and appointments involves two parts—the mechanism and the messaging.
- Pet owner views about pet health subjects can change over time, so practices must adjust and maintain relevant client messaging over time to improve compliance and preventive care. This is particularly important to address two top reasons why pet owners don’t make regular veterinary appointments: They believe their pets are fine or they’re worried about veterinary costs/value.
- Automated veterinary appointment reminder systems work best for busy veterinary teams when they include key features, including automated communication scheduling, PIMS synchronization, analytics, and a mobile app for pet owners.
- An effective automated veterinary appointment reminder system also involves the ability to message clients on communication channels they prefer, and two-way texting is an especially important channel.
- Pet owners value automated pet health reminders because they’re convenient, and convenience is the underlying factor driving growth in the global pet care market.
- This growth includes projected spending increases by pet owners on veterinary care, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals.
- Good client relationships and good veterinary-client communications correlate with better patient outcomes.
To meet the current needs of staff and clients and set themselves up for the future, many practices choose choose AllyDVM Client Communication + Retention Software, the most powerful and customizable client engagement in the veterinary industry.