Whether your practice uses paperless or paper-based medical records, you're probably in the habit of doing a periodic sweep
and inactivating files that show no activity in a certain period of time. Before you write these clients off completely, give
them one last chance to contact you and let you know you're still their veterinarian of choice.
"Why should you obsess over marketing efforts to attract new clients when you have a pool of existing clients who already
know you?" says Judy Bee, a human-medicine practice consultant in La Jolla, Calif., who has helped implement similar strategies
in physicians' offices.
Dr. Jeff Rothstein, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of a veterinary practice group in Michigan, agrees. "This last effort gives you
a chance to get feedback," he says. "If a client has left my practice, I like to know why."
To the letter
A letter will help you renew these old relationships. (See below in Related Links to download a sample letter.) The letter
informs the client that you're about to inactivate his or her records and you're concerned about the pet's health. Then it
asks if the client still considers you his or her veterinarian and, if not, solicits input on why he or she has left the practice.
Next, use your practice management system to generate a list of all clients who haven't been seen in the last two years. Merge
the names and addresses into the letter and mail it out. (Contact your software vendor if you need help figuring out how to
do this.) Who knows? You might hear from clients whose pets need your immediate attention—and can fill a hole in your schedule.
Earlier is better
Of course, the best strategy is to use your reminder program effectively—whether you mail, e-mail, or call—in the first few
months after a client is past due for a necessary exam or treatment. "These clients are like accounts receivable," Dr. Rothstein
says. "At 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, you still have 'live' people who are more likely to come in—though less likely as
time goes by."
If it has been a year or more since a client has come in and that person has visited another veterinarian, Dr. Rothstein's
hope is that he or she will return because the experience elsewhere was less than what Dr. Rothstein offers. "The year marker
is another good chance to check in with a client and find out what's going on," he says. "If they've gone somewhere else,
I want them back."