Understanding the Value of Data

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Every partner hospital is different, and so are we!
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What is the most valuable asset in your practice? Your staff? Your equipment? These are the two that most veterinary practice owners would initially point to; however, I contend that in the grand scheme of things, neither is worth nearly as much as the information stored in your practice management system. Just think about it for a moment: your practice’s ability to drive revenue and profits largely stems from your ability to drive “well” visits from your existing client base. (Look for the upcoming piece The Numbers Don’t Lie: Why Your Practice’s Growth Is Predicated on Existing Patient Well Visits to explain this in greater detail.) When you consider this goal in greater detail, prerequisites include your ability to communicate with existing clients (i.e. the accuracy of phone numbers, mailing addresses, email addresses, etc. in your practice management system), and your ability to know what preventative care services and products the patient could benefit from (i.e. reminders, deductions from medical history, etc. in your practice management system). The unavoidable truth is that both of these requisites revolve around good, clean data.

Alas, data is not sexy. Sure, sales reps for Cornerstone, AVImark, Infinity, etc. get worked up about the magical things their systems can conceivably do, but few else in the industry are championing the value of accurate information. It is something that, shockingly, our industry takes for granted. Yet if you look at the differences between high-performing consumer businesses and everyone else, one thing stands out: they understand the value of information in terms of driving repeat visits. Notice how places like Best Buy and Macy’s are no longer asking generically for your email address, but instead are asking if you’d like your receipt emailed to you? This subtle change in their request is because they view that contact information as unbelievably valuable, and they weren’t seeing high enough capture rates from the vague ask of old. Instead, by tying your sharing of the email with your receipt, the “trade” seems fairer to consumers and so more are acquiescing to their request.

Are you and your staffs doing an exemplary job on entering data? Here are some averages to contemplate based on actual data at practices we’ve examined, and I’ll put them in the simple context of the next ten clients who walk through your door today. It is highly likely you have incorrect (i.e. undeliverable by USPS) mailing addresses for one or two of them. You are also probably missing email addresses for four or five of them. Ruminate on that for a moment. Now, let’s fast forward twelve months to when your practice is sending reminders and let’s assume that your practice sees compliance rates in line with averages we’ve observed from analyzing hundreds of thousands of real reminder data points. If you only send postcards, only four or so of those ten will come in for their wellness visit. If you send postcards and emails, you can expect five. Add in phone calls and you’re looking at between six and seven. Now multiple that across your entire client base, and then multiply that across your average invoice for a well visit. If I could read your mind, I’d probably see a dollar sign and a lot of numbers behind it, right? The simple fact is that you lose more revenue each year from bad data than you do from “missed charges” in your practice.

How can you remedy this? To start, you need your entire staff to realize that data equals dollars. More revenue means pay increases, team lunches, etc. Apathy toward accuracy just isn’t good business. If they see a comma in an email address or a reminder for FVRCP on a dog’s record, they should actively take the time to fix it. Reception should get into the habit of asking and/or confirming at least one piece of information every time they speak with a client, either on the phone or in-person. When Mrs. Jones calls in because Fido isn’t eating, before they hang up, they should ask, “before I let you go, can I just confirm that you still live at 123 Main Street in Anytown?” When Mr. Smith checks Snuggles in for an annual vaccination visit, they should bring up, ”it doesn’t look like we have an email address on file for you, can we have one for notifying you of upcoming appointments and to send you periodic customer appreciation coupons?” I know it sounds so easy, and yet so many practices don’t do this consistently.

In summation, I’m routinely asked what the one thing is that any practice can do to boost revenue and my reply is always the same: collect more and more accurate information about your clients and their pets. Initial, quizzical looks questioning my competence slowly morph into expressions of “Eureka!” as owners realize how simple and how valuable data actually is. It is undeniably the most valuable asset in your practice. Protect it, maintain it and grow it and you can expect it to pay dividends for years to come. I promise.

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