Is your practice app savvy yet? - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Is your practice app savvy yet?

Robin Fearon went to a session at the BSAVA congress where he heard about the bene ts apps can bring to a practice

PRACTICE apps could fuel bigger
and better customer engagement,
if mobile developers are to be
believed.

Runaway growth in the world
smartphone market shows no sign
of slowing and more than one billion
handset sales is testament to the
popularity of mobile computing. So a
presentation at the BSAVA
congress encouraging
practices to become “app
savvy” should have been a
natural pick.

This session was part of
the exhibitor stream and
presented by Anilog which unveiled its
new app at the congress (as reported last
month
).

Perhaps unsurprisingly it was poorly
attended, reflecting the tendency of
vets as clinicians to leave the tech
to others. But what about the vet as
practice manager, marketing manager,
iPad operator or just phone owner?
Sadly, missing in action.

Maybe it was like the Sex Pistols at
Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in 1976:
an influence on everyone, but attended
only by a devout few who spread the
word.

High on wish list

Maybe apps are not punk enough.
Phil McKinnon, a consultant working
with Innov8ive Software on app
development, says the humble phone
app should be high on the practice
wish list. After all, there is productivity
and revenue at stake here. Your clients are smartphone owners, so reach them
where they live.

We happen to live in one of the most
densely mobile-populated countries
in the world. In the UK there are
123 phones for every 100 head of
population. People own multiple
devices, often work and personal
phones alongside tablets. They spend an average of two-and-a-half
hours each day on them and a large
proportion of that time using apps.

Remember, said Phil, practices are
all about bonding clients, increasing
revenue and adding value. What if an
app could do that? Well it’s more likely
than accessing services from your
website via a smartphone.

For a start, how many practices
have an optimised website for mobile
browsing or offer appointment
booking online? How many practices
have a website that clients would use at
all? The answer, sadly, is very few.

Setting up apps that allow clients to
book appointments or register pets
at the practice – potentially feeding
back into the practice management
system – opens up new avenues for
interaction. Push notifying clients
about vaccination, diet and prescription
pick-ups, or new merchandise via a
mobile app shows that you care about their custom.

In building a two-way conversation you promote
the social side of your
business: community.
“People love social media,”
said Phil. “If they have
information about their
pets on an app, if they can
book appointments, order
products, mark treatments
as done, you are helping
them to control health and
welfare for their pet.”

Admittedly, it’s not quite that easy. Android and Apple’s mobile
devices may be the most popular, but
they are not the only game in town.
Neither are app marketplaces con ned
to iTunes and Google Play.

Know the devices

“You will need to know what devices
your clients are using and make sure
your app will be available for them
to access,” said Phil. “Apps are often
developed for a specific platform and
if you want to expand to another there
could be additional charges.”

Look at your developer’s portfolio
and expertise. Shop around and ask to see how the apps work. In these heady
days of the mobile explosion there are
“experts” and then there are experts.
You need to know if your mobile
developer has the ability to create a
bespoke experience for you and your
practice. Importantly, you need advice
on what your app should look like and
how it is going to work.

Functionality is the deciding factor.
Probably one of the most pored over
concepts in creating client loyalty is
the reminder. Creating a reminder
system from the practice management
software to a mobile app could pay
huge dividends, said Phil.

Reminders to administer flea or worm treatments
can be pushed to the app, and a
confirmation built in for owners to
mark the treatment as complete, as well
as the opportunity to follow up and find out if they have enough flea and
worming product or could use a repeat
prescription.

“We know from reminder systems
that are already in place that driving
compliance and then repeat purchases
gives uplifts of more than 20%,” said
Phil. “A confirmation can then be fed
back into the clinical notes so the vet
does not have to ask when a pet was
last wormed.”

Only 30% of e-mail reminders
are read and the SMS reminder
costs money, making the app a free
and convenient method to drive
compliance. By making the app
a central point of contact, with
registered pets listed and other information like booster dates,
microchip number and insurance
number, both practice and client can
stay more closely connected.

Look, said Phil, even if the app is
fairly basic and contains an optimised
version of what you provide on your
website – address and important
telephone numbers, a handy map,
information on the veterinary team,
opening hours, holidays – you are
already adding value with a free app.

More sophisticated apps include
weight checkers and fitness trackers
that “gamify” pet health and create a
competitive element to help owners
increase their pet’s activity levels and
combat obesity. But first you have to
get in the game.

The next generation of pet owners
at your practice will be mobile and
connected. If you want to play then
you have to join in. Spread the word.

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