Fact: Acquiring new patients is much harder than retaining existing ones. So why is it that so many practices are letting existing patient relationships lapse? That’s a big question, and while there’s certainly a big answer, I’d like to focus on just one contributing factor for now: active patient count.
How exactly do you define an active patient?
After much debate, the industry has pretty much settled on the following definition:
- A patient
- Who has purchased any product or service from your clinic
- In the last 18 months
- And has not since been marked inactive or deceased
Net patient growth doesn’t tell the whole story
Tallying up your active patient count is relatively easy. The challenge is that doing so can provide a false sense of security. Take a look at the chart below and you’ll see that Practice A and Practice B both achieved a net patient growth of 2%. Granted, [bctt tweet=”growth is always good news, but what the net change in active patients doesn’t tell you is how many active patients were actually lost.”]
Sample Active Patient Count
|Net change in active patients||+40 (2% incr.)||+40 (2% incr.)|
|Active patients at start of month||2000||2000|
|Increase in active patients||60 (3%)||180 (9%)|
|Decrease in active patients||20 (1%)||140 (7%)|
|Active patients at end of month||2040||2040|
While Practice B did a stellar job acquiring active patients, they also did a stellar job of losing them. Remember, acquiring patients is much harder than retaining them. So, at the end of the day, they worked way harder than Practice A, and ended up with the same 2% growth. In fairness, this may also not be the practice’s fault. The demographics of their community might facilitate the high turnover—take a college or military town for example.
Why you need to analyze your net patient decline
If you only focus on your net growth, you’ll never discover the opportunities you’re missing. [bctt tweet=”To see your true potential for growth, you need to take a closer look at what’s behind your net patient decline.”]
Net patient numbers decline for three reasons:
- Patients die
- Patients become inactive due to, say, a move
- Patients don’t set foot in your practice for more than 18 months, i.e. they lapse
While you can’t influence the first two reasons, you can certainly influence the third by engaging patients before they lapse; in other words, during the lapsing phase.
How and why to re-engage lapsing patients
Lapsing patients are those who haven’t visited your practice for 14 to 18 months, and they represent one of the greatest opportunities for improving your practice’s active patient count. Time and time again, analysis has shown us that the time and energy spent on engaging with these patients yields a great return, so take the time to identify them and then take action to bring them back to your practice.
Reach out to them via traditional mail or by email (RETRIEVER can automate this for you). Even better, give them a call. Let them know about new products and services you have available. Stress the importance of regular vet visits. Or simply let them know you miss them. Then measure the impact of your actions.
Prepare to be amazed by your ROI, and don’t hesitate to share it with us. We enjoy reading success stories as much as we enjoy facilitating them.
Martin Traub-Werner is the dedicated founder of VetSuccess. His number one focus is providing the most value possible to VetSuccess clients – and he loves to talk data so don’t hesitate to contact him.
This blog has been updated and was originally published May 4, 2016.