It's that time of year when some parasites start their annual infestations—if they haven't already set up camp year-round—and
if your patients aren't current on their year-round heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, the situation could become serious.
Have you done everything to ensure that your patients are protected? Before you say "yes" and turn the page, take an honest
look at your compliance records—you might change your answer. "We've always recommended flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
for all of our patients, and like most veterinarians, we thought that we had a pretty good compliance rate," says Dr. Charles
Curie, owner and founder of Country Doctor Veterinary Clinic in Jefferson, Ohio. "That is, until we actually measured it."
Like many veterinary practice teams, he and his staff were focusing on good medicine but not tracking compliance, which had
a direct impact on the bottom line.
A NEED FOR CHANGE
Dr. Curie opened his practice in 1979 and focused most of his first 15 years on large animal care, adding another doctor,
Dr. Diane Veale, in 1995. But in 1996, a horse accident forced him to switch to companion animal medicine. At the same time
he began focusing more on his business practices. But not until a few years ago, when he audited his compliance records, did
he realize how few of his clients were following his recommendations. "Our compliance was astonishingly low, about 18 percent,"
Dr. Curie says. "Reality is always brutal."
He knew he and his team could do better. So he implemented a plan to raise compliance in five areas: heartworm testing, heartworm
prevention, flea and tick control, dental prophylaxis, and fecal exams. His top strategy? Send a consistent message throughout
the practice that these medical recommendations are crucial to pet health.
Beyond this, Dr. Curie says, he and his team members made no hard-core sales pitches; his clients accepted the new medical
recommendations based on their trust in the practice. "We simply made consistent recommendations," Dr. Curie says. "Our goal
is to offer best medicine to every patient and client. If they see that we believe in it, they'll accept our recommendation
most of the time."
Developing that consistent message has netted the practice some hard results. Country Doctor Veterinary Clinic is basically
a one-FTE practice; both doctors work part time. Dr. Curie says their revenue has grown from $586,000 in 2006 to $850,000
in 2009. "Yes, we've continued to grow throughout the recession," Dr. Curie says. "People want what's best for their pets,
regardless of the economy."
The practice saw its compliance rate increase to 88 percent in the first 12 months of initiating the new plan. "Usually those
clients who don't accept something we recommend simply can't afford it," Dr. Curie says. "But they believe it's necessary
and wish they could do it."
Dr. Curie says there were no hard costs involved in the decision to monitor compliance. "Much of the increased income went
to the bottom line," he says.
Implementing a compliance-monitoring strategy is beneficial both to the practice and Dr. Curie's patients. "Accepting that
best medicine is inseparable from best business will enhance the quality and quantity of life of all veterinarians who subscribe
to his philosophy," he says. "The hard part is looking in the mirror and accepting what you see. I realized, 'I have seen
the enemy and he is me.'"