Tracking Preventive Care for Patient Wellness and Practice Health

Prevention is our bread and butter — the better we are at delivering these preventive care products and services, the healthier our patients and practices will be. Prevention has so many moving parts that attention to detail is critical. Therefore, it's important to ensure all patients are offered the full spectrum of preventive care for maximum welfare and optimized practice health.

To achieve this, develop a program for your practice and track its progress. How else do you expect to achieve maximum client compliance when so many items require your attention? As with most detail-oriented things, it takes planning and organization to do it right.

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Building a Healthy Preventive Care Program

A thriving program encompasses more than just exams and vaccines — it reflects your practice's entire philosophy on wellness. Your first goal is to build a menu of products and services to meet each patient's needs, grouped by signalment.

Vaccines and lab work, especially, will differ by age group. Most practices will organize their patients into at least six distinct populations based on species and life stage (canine or feline, and junior, adult, senior, or geriatric). Some will want to break it down further by gender, breed type, spay/neuter status, or lifestyle (i.e., indoor vs. outdoor). The sky's the limit when deciding how to subdivide your patient base.

Each group will receive a different annual menu of prevention products and services, including some or all of the following:

  • Physical examination
  • Vaccines
  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood pressure
  • EKG
  • Fecal testing
  • Dentistry
  • Microchipping
  • Sterilization
  • Parasite prevention products
  • Radiographs

Your program could offer each plan in annual bundles consistent with your patients' current age. These bundles may be associated with a lower price for maximum adoption or not, depending on your practice's pricing philosophy.

Setting Goals for Your Prevention Program

The key to a healthy prevention program is to take stock of your current status and set realistic, measurable goals for improvement. What percentage of your patients currently adhere to your existing prevention program? What percentage are you aiming for? Where would you like to be in six months? A year?

The trouble is, it may be difficult to quantify your existing program's adoption rate. The number of each basic preventive item invoiced over the last 12 months (wellness visits, heartworm tests, CBCs, etc.) divided by the number of patients seen this past year may be your easiest first step.

Ultimately, your goal is to improve the total number of prevention products and services purchased each year, including laboratory diagnostics and prevention products. All of this should be done with the goal of ensuring that:

  • All of your patients receive the preventive health care they deserve.
  • The total number of preventable diseases your practice diagnoses declines.

Tracking Your Program's Success

It's crucial to the success of your prevention plan that you track whether your goals are being met. Here's what you want to know:

  • What percentage of your patients have met their bundled plan's prevention goals?
  • What is the percentage of adoption of each menu item?
  • What is the percentage of adoption of each bundled plan?
  • What percentage of your patients are lapsing with respect to their prevention plan? (This is typically defined by an 18-month lapse in prevention products and/or services.)
  • If you offer a wellness program, what percentage of wellness plan patients are meeting their prevention plan's goals compared to those that are not wellness-plan adopters?
  • What percentage of your patients are suffering preventable diseases? (Note that there will be a lag before you have a significant downturn, but be patient — you'll get there!)

Unless you enjoy fiddling endlessly with Excel or living your life with your nose in a ledger, a robust practice management software product is a must. The best programs allow you to track these metrics in easy-to-understand reports. Some will have reports built-in. Others may require that you customize metrics and build reports yourself.

If you're asking yourself "Why should I care?", just remember: You won't know if your preventive care programs are a success without knowing whether or not your clients actually adopted them.

Involving the Team

Getting everyone involved is half the battle, but half the fun, too. Now that you've established your new prevention program, communicating it to your staff and getting their buy-in is essential. To deliver maximum impact, make tracking your progress a team effort with a few entertaining options:

  • Use a large whiteboard or a chalkboard-painted wall to keep track of the number of patients completing their preventive care plans for the year.
  • If there's one item that's been lagging (fecal testing, perhaps?), include this item on your team board.
  • Enlist your reference laboratory or drug reps to give talks on any items you'd like to home in on.
  • Train your team members to give brief presentations about preventive care while they TPR patients.
  • Offer a prize for the best presentation. (An Amazon gift card is always nice.)
  • Offer incentives for reaching certain milestones. (Pizza party, maybe?)

Be creative! After all, your practice's and patients' health are at stake.

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Patty Khuly

A graduate of both Wellesley College and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Patty Khuly is an award-winning veterinarian known for her independent thinking, her spirited pet advocacy, her passion for the veterinary profession, and her famously irreverent pet health writing. She lives in South Miami with four dogs, countless cats, two rescued goats, and a hilarious flock of hens.

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