Forward booking in the time of COVID-19: Uncertain times call for certain measures

by By Kate Zirkle

8 min read

In uncertain times, we often look for things that we can predict or control. As things constantly change in the world, and certainly within veterinary practices, it’s important to spend our time and energy on the things we can influence. 

With the recent release of data showing a decline in patient visits and revenue, veterinary practices must break out their toolbox and use tools they never have before to keep their practices afloat. 

This toolbox, filled with unopened or underutilized tools, often contains: 

  • Telemedicine
  • Aggressive online pharmacy
  • Forward booking

Why you need Forward booking now more than ever 

The basic concept of forward booking is that a patient is booked for their next appointment before completing their current visit. 

Some of the benefits of forward booking appointments include:

  • Essentially guarantees revenue in the future
  • Minimizes your lapsing and lapsed patient rates (those patients that you haven’t seen in 14+ months)
  • Increases your compliance rates
  • Reduces the number of day-of appointment requests
  • Reduces the amount that you have to spend on reminders

Based on current VetSuccess Practice Overview Report benchmarks, the industry is averaging a forward booking rate of 18.3%, up from 13.9% in 2017.


Forward booking industry average









Data from 2,500+ VetSuccess practices.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the dental industry and how they are able to accomplish infamously high forward booking rates. I discussed the challenges I hear veterinary practices mention and how the dental industry faces the same barriers and still overcomes them.

But that certainly wasn’t written during COVID-19, I can hear you saying now. However, just like telemedicine, forward booking is a remote-friendly task that can be accomplished even if you have cut hours back or completely shut down. 

How forward booking can help us navigate the pandemic

1: Reschedule cancellationsan icon representing rescheduling cancelled appointments

Even if you are not seeing a type of appointment or surgery due to federal or state regulations, have your employee book that appointment at a later time. This can be one, two, or even three months away.

Getting it on the books will significantly improve the chance you see that case. Do not, I repeat, do not leave it in the client’s hands to call you back at a later time.

2: Answer the phonean icon of a phone with a chat box in it

If you have closed your practice temporarily due to a lack of business or increased regulations, you should still have someone answering the phone.

Have it forwarded to someone’s home or cellphone that has access to your practice’s schedule so that they can capture those clients. That same employee can field re-fill requests and general questions to stay bonded to your clients.

3: Incentivize clientsan icon representing incentivizing clients

Incentivize your clients to call and book their next vaccine appointment, regardless of how far out it is. Your manufacturer and distribution partnerships are there to help you as much as possible during these challenging times. See what they can offer to the practice in the form of an incentive, that can be passed along to a client.

Imagine how popular a Facebook post would be if you were able to post: “Call us to schedule your next vaccine appointment and receive a free rabies vaccination. We are limiting this promotion to the first 200 clients that call us, and there is no limit to how far out the appointment needs to be scheduled.”

Adapting and evolving during times like these will be the difference between a practice surviving or not. Keeping a positive mindset and finding a way to make things happen will go a long way as well. 

Forward booking — How to make it happen a laptop with the VetSuccess forward booking toolkit on it

Instead of focusing on the perceived barriers of forward booking (as mentioned in my previous blog), find a way to make it happen. Be creative and adapt. I often find the best ideas come from a group discussion with my team. 

In addition, VetSuccess provides a Forward Booking Staff Meeting in a Box that you can download and use at a staff meeting. 

Lastly, there are a lot of veterinary professionals like myself that are willing to help, especially in times like these. We are all in this together! 

Kate Zirkle

Kate Zirkle

Kate Zirkle is a Product Marketing Manager for Vetsource. She is passionate about animal rescue, personal development, and travel. When not working to advance the veterinary industry, she can be found kayaking, reading, and planning her next trip.

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