September 15, 2015


 Program helps bring back lapsed patients

​Partners for Healthy Pets offers new program, convention sessions, other resources

Posted Sept. 2, 2015

Veterinary practices can participate in a free, new program to help bring back pets that have not been in for over 14 months.

The new program is from Partners for Healthy Pets, an alliance of veterinary associations, veterinary colleges, and animal health companies with a mission of ensuring that pets receive preventive care through regular visits to the veterinarian. The AVMA and American Animal Hospital Association lead PHP, which operates as a committee of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Partners for Healthy Pets launched its online toolbox for veterinary practices in 2012 and its consumer campaign in 2013. As part of the consumer campaign, PHP is running online ads throughout 2015.

In August, Partners for Healthy Pets announced a new endeavor: a program of targeted emails to help practices reconnect with past-due patients. In July at the AVMA Annual Convention, the organization offered a half-day symposium on preventive care. Earlier in the year, PHP and other organizations introduced other resources to promote preventive care, including a Facebook page from PHP with shareable posts.

New program

Partners for Healthy Pets worked with Vetstreet, a marketing company, to develop the program to help practices reconnect with past-due patients.

Percentages of canine and feline patients that are inactive have increased in the past three years, according to a review of databases from 5,000 U.S. companion animal practices that are Vetstreet clients. In 2012, 45.5 percent of dogs and 51.1 percent of cats had not had a visit of any kind in at least 18 months. By the first quarter of 2015, the figures had increased to 53.4 percent of dogs and 58.6 percent of cats.

Partners for Healthy Pets and Vetstreet used materials from the PHP consumer campaign to create an automated email campaign urging owners of inactive patients to schedule a checkup. Vetstreet conducted a 90-day pilot program with 402 practices to gauge the effectiveness of the email campaign.

Vetstreet customized reminders to each practice and sent them to owners of pets that had not been seen in at least 14 months. Up to three emails were sent to each owner.

Within 90 days of the first email going out, practices saw 16,812 pets, which was 5.6 percent of those targeted. Eighty percent of the pets were lapsed 16 months or more, and a quarter of those had not been seen for between 24 and 36 months. The visits generated over $4 million in revenue. Because some practices enrolled later in the 90-day program, Vetstreet followed results for an additional 90 days. By then, visits had increased to 23,615, and revenue had increased to over $5.6 million.

Of note, response rates were greater for cats and for older animals. The response rate was slightly lower for the 155 practices that elected to offer a $25 discount, but the mean transaction amount was higher.

“The overwhelming success of the pilot program has affirmed the value of this initiative for veterinary practices and for PHP’s mission of ensuring pet wellness through regular preventive care,” said Dr. Ron DeHaven, PHP chair and AVMA chief executive officer. “This program can lead to renewed veterinary and client relationships, ultimately benefiting the veterinarian, the pet owner and, most importantly, the pet.”

Partners for Healthy Pets announced in August that it is now offering the program to all practices for free. Vetstreet clients can enroll through their administrative portals. Other practices can enroll by visiting or by calling Vetstreet at 888-799-8387.

Convention sessions

On July 12 at the AVMA Annual Convention, practice consultants Dr. Karen Felsted and Karyn Gavzer spoke on behalf of Partners for Healthy Pets during a half-day symposium. They offered insights about how to improve the delivery of preventive care to pets.

In the first two sessions, Dr. Felsted and Gavzer provided a number of tips to help practice teams work with clients. Gavzer said teams have become aware in recent years that they need to do more to communicate the value of preventive care.

According to the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, practice revenues were up 3.4 percent between 2013 and 2014 and up 4.9 percent in the first five months of 2015 as compared with the first five months of 2014, while patient visits were down 0.5 percent in 2014 and up 1.8 percent in the first five months of 2015. Dr. Felsted said, “But if we don’t get visit growth to increase, revenue growth is not going to be sustainable.”

New clients were down 9.2 percent in 2014 and down 7.7 percent in the first five months of 2015. Gavzer said pet owners are spending money on their pets in other sectors, however. Dr. Felsted said veterinarians must make the case for the value of preventive care.

Pet owners praise practices on aspects such as friendliness, range of services, reminders, and on-time appointments. Clients’ concerns include value for the dollars paid and a lack of payment options.

Gavzer noted that one attribute associated with increased visits is seeing the same veterinarian each visit. She also emphasized that veterinarians should explain out loud what they are finding when examining a pet. Then the veterinarian should say something along the lines of the following: “Based on my exam, based on your concerns, based on your pet’s age and lifestyle, this is what we need to do to keep Max healthy and happy.”

Partners for Healthy Pets has developed new resources to help practices book a patient’s next visit before the owner leaves the building. Gavzer said the entire team must agree on the philosophy of forward booking, and then each member needs to understand his or her role in implementation.

Team members should practice conversations with clients about forward booking, Gavzer said. Among the new resources from PHP is a training video with an example conversation.

Gavzer challenged practices to make innovative changes such as implementing monthly payment plans for preventive care, creating health plans for specific dog breeds, and providing more care for cats and other underserved species. She also advised taking steps to make veterinary visits less stressful for pets by rethinking the entire experience from the perspective of the pet.

Other resources

Partners for Healthy Pets and other organizations have developed a wide variety of resources recently to help practices promote preventive care.

Pet Wellness Pulse, the new Facebook page from PHP, offers posts for practices to share with clients. The page is an easy, one-step tool that provides busy clinics with social content to engage clients.

Partners for Healthy Pets continues to share materials with practices here. These materials include tweets, content for websites and newsletters, a video public service announcement, customizable print ads, and digital ads.

The new resources on forward booking are here. Among the resources are the booklet “Forward Booking Appointments: Tips to get Your Practice Started” and a handout for the practice team. Practices can order buttons for the team to wear as reminders.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association in conjunction with PHP have created workbooks to help veterinary technicians and practice managers implement preventive care measures. The workbooks are available for free to NAVTA and VHMA members.

In addition, Partners for Healthy Pets and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Primary Care Veterinary Educators have developed a certificate program in preventive care. The program covers the PHP survey tool, AAHA-AVMA guidelines, monthly payment plans, Internet marketing and social media, communications, and feline-friendly practice. The program is here.

Related JAVMA content:

Herding Cat Owners (Sept. 1, 2013)
Toolbox for Healthy Pets (Sept. 15, 2012)
Opportunity (March 1, 2012)