How you helped us to help you to “retrieve” lapsing patients in 2017

12 min read

In relatively recent history, veterinary practices have been turning their attention to the concept of the lapsing patient. If you haven’t seen a patient in over eighteen months, it turns out, it’s very likely you’ll never see them again. Thus, there has been growing interest in how to attract those patients whom you haven’t seen recently, but haven’t yet fallen off the eighteen month cliff. This is the ever-elusive “lapsing patient,” the tricky animal you haven’t seen for fourteen to eighteen months.

Thanks to the Lapsing Patient Reports we review and a whole lot of lapsing patient numbers in the Practice Overview Report, we’ve been given plenty of visibility into the lapsing-patient issues that practices regularly face. We wondered aloud if there wasn’t something we could do to help. After all, it wouldn’t be enough for us to simply report on problems to our practices, we reasoned; it isn’t much fun watching your friends struggle. If there was something we could do, we figured we should report on the problem and be a part of the solution.

Needless to say, there’s lots out there. Emails, texts, phone calls, reminders, automated, customized, paid, free—the works. We knew if it was going to be useful, it had to uphold our most important principles in the work we do: it had to save practices time, money, and help them be more successful. That meant it had to be easy, automated, and generate real, visible returns.

Fortunately, we had some ingredients to help us get started. One, we had access to the data of our loyal and valued VetSuccess members. We could tell, within good reason, who hadn’t been in the practice in the last fourteen to eighteen months. We also had lots of tried and true experience with email campaigns: our fearless leader, Martin, had lots of expertise from a previous life, and we had a crack marketing and design team to back us up.

Probably most importantly, we had you: close friends of VetSuccess who were willing to give of your time, talent, and intellect to help us design a product that would ultimately help you.

We asked…you answered

And so it was. On day one, we surveyed over 100 practice managers, owners, and CVPMs to best understand the ins and outs of a solution that would be most helpful. An email at 14, 16, and 18 months lapsing, or another set of times? Discounts on a wellness exam, or not? What would you be willing to pay for such a program, and what information would you want back from us to show you it was working? Would you want a customized email for an additional fee, or something light, standard, and inexpensive?

Unsurprisingly, you had lots of opinions, all of which were hugely helpful in molding the product as we moved it from concept to prototype.

Alpha Lab gets to work

That’s when it entered the lab. In 2016, I cheekily christened our research and development department the VetSuccess X Lab, because when I found out about Google X, that’s what I wanted our department to be when it grew up. (We’ve since renamed it to VetSuccess Alpha, because who could miss out on the pun “leading the pack in innovation”?) In the lab, all kinds of things can go right and go wrong, and that’s what it’s for: it’s a sandbox for our hopes and dreams, where we get to build things and test them out and break ‘em up and stick them back together in different ways until we think we’ve got something really good.

And that’s what we hoped had happened. But to be sure, we turned to you again to confirm that it was what you were looking for and that we hadn’t run too far away with our imaginations.

RETRIEVER is born…and tested

We did another round of polling and settled on a worthy name for the latest addition to our “data-driven practice management solutions”: RETRIEVER. Armed with a great name and a nice, light set of features, he was ready for his first spin on the town on his training wheels. We found three very gracious practices who were willing to participate in an alpha test, and allowed us to send out RETRIEVER  to fetch their lapsing patients. After sixty days, zero crashes, and a few hundred dollars worth of patient visits retrieved, he was ready for round two: the beta test.

This time, we went out to an even larger group of practices: a whole fifteen of them. He was about as nervous as I was (as a new parent, I was anxious indeed!), but again, we drove him around town with seatbelts and were fully prepared to take him off the road if something went terribly wrong.

Indeed, in the end, nothing did, and quite the opposite happened: the beta test went very, very right. With three simple automated emails inviting pet owners to bring their pets in for a wellness exam at 14, 16, and 18 months lapsing, RETRIEVER sent over 2,600 emails in sixty days of the beta test, bringing back 161 patients and over $32,000 worth of revenue in patient visits.

Back to the lab: more tweaks and features

Our little puppy was growing up fast. It was time to strap on a few more features and get him out the door and into the world, so that he could get to the hard work of helping bring more lapsing patients back into practices. We armed him with a Performance Report so that we could all keep an eye on how well (or poorly) he was doing. We gave him a helpful bump with a “No Thanks” survey, so that pet owners who didn’t want to book an appointment could let the practice know why not. Then, ‘twas the (night before) the night before Christmas, and while all through the lab the vast majority of our mice were sleeping, a few of us elves continued to beaver away so that all would be automated and right before our launch in the new year.

RETRIEVER grows up!

And so it was. We said goodbye to 2016, and proudly rang in the new year with our fully fledged RETRIEVER. It took a village to raise this puppy, to be sure, but we didn’t begrudge the extra cooks in the kitchen. Quite the contrary: it was all part of our continued commitment to develop products and services with our friends and members, so that we’re sure what we build is going to provide them with great value. As much fun as it is to throw coloured spaghetti against the wall, if it’s going to help our practices, it’s gotta stick.

Wishing you all the very best for 2017 from your friends at VetSuccess. Here’s to RETRIEVER and a fetching new year!

, Kevin Keystone

, Kevin Keystone

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