Veterinary teams are feeling more overwhelmed than ever before, and there is nothing more frustrating for a pet owner than not being able to see their veterinarian when their pet needs them. How can we improve patient care without exhausting our staff? Many of us in the industry work long hours with minimal staff, and, no matter how hard we try to please everyone, there is always an imbalance with patient care and self-care.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to learn five ways you can improve client experiences and patient care by seeing add-on appointments, even when your schedule is jam-packed.
1: Get key staff members to work to the top of their skill set
The first important task is getting key staff members—yes, that includes veterinarians—to work to the top of their skill set. This means creating protocols for daily procedures and appointments, and clearly communicating them to all staff members.
Your lead technician and veterinarian should not be answering phones, walking dogs, or cleaning cages.
Give your veterinary technicians meaningful tasks at the heart of patient care, such as collecting blood, administering fluids, placing catheters, assessing overall patient care, taking radiographs, and running diagnostic tests. Registered technicians are vital for creating effective use of the veterinarian’s time, which indirectly reduces expenses and improves profits. When veterinary technicians are valued in the practice, they will generate the most return for their efforts, and they’ll be able to delegate cleaning and general animal care tasks to highly skilled assistants.
Properly utilizing veterinary technicians will also provide veterinarians with more time to evaluate, diagnose, prescribe, plan, prepare for and perform surgery, and communicate with pet owners, which will result in growth potential for the bottom line of the practice, as well as the ability to increase the number of patients seen each week.
If your staff is managed correctly, and your team works efficiently while trusting and empowering each other, they will be able to efficiently offer extraordinary client experiences and the highest standard of veterinary care.
2: Use two-way digital messaging for easy tasks to keep clients out of your practice
Digital communication — AKA virtual care — has become a popular and efficient way to communicate with clients because of the convenience and immediate connection it affords. Virtual care includes texting, sending photos and videos, and engaging in live video chats. It allows your veterinary practice to communicate with clients quickly and efficiently without having the client come into the hospital and monopolizing the veterinarian’s time with conversation.
Texting has become the preferred method of communication with most pet owners. It’s quick and easy to deploy in a veterinary practice, and it reduces the amount of time staff spends with clients. Your team can text pet owners to:
- Review or triage symptoms
- Discuss diagnostic results
- Discuss medical conditions with the use of pictures and videos
- Provide surgical or medical instructions
- Send educational materials
- Answer questions regarding prescription medications
Many of these tasks can be performed by trained staff members or veterinary technicians.
Digital communication expedites access to care, which is a win-win-win for pets, their owners, and your team. Not only does virtual care save your in-hospital staff time, but, because the conversations are documented, it allows for quick application into the patient’s medical record.
3: Encourage and implement drop-off exams
For my veterinary practice — Monticello Animal Hospital in Shawnee, Kansas — drop-off exams started long before COVID. Because Monticello is a one-doctor practice, drop-off exams have been great. I can’t be in two places at once, and drop-offs allow us to see more patients each day. After talking with several veterinary hospitals during the pandemic, I was surprised to learn that not everyone was using this option.
Drop-off appointments allow the veterinary staff to manage medical cases between appointments and give urgency to clients who need to have their pets seen sooner rather than later. Communication for drop-off appointments can be done through texting or video chat, either while the pet is in the practice, or after they go home with their owner. When you offer drop-off appointments, your in-hospital schedule can stay intact while you add more cases to be managed at your veterinary team’s convenience.
4: Run your schedule — don’t let it run you
For your days to run smoothly, ensure that you have scheduling protocols in place, and that your staff is properly trained on these protocols.
Your team should:
- Guide clients on when to schedule appointments
- Gather appropriate data prior to appointments, especially wellness exams
- Lead with two ‘yes’ options for appointments
- Offer same-day urgent care appointments when scheduling
- Place medical appointments between preventative care appointments
- Scatter technician appointments throughout the day (ensure your team tells clients they won’t be seeing the doctor)
You may even consider an entire afternoon or Saturday for same-day or walk-in, first-come-first-served appointments.
When your staff is properly trained and scheduling is done effectively, and you use your veterinary team to their fullest potential, it’s possible to book multiple appointments at the same time and still provide an exceptional experience.
5: Automate whenever possible
Automate anything and everything to help with your team’s time management. Some tasks that can be automated include:
- Appointment confirmations, so you don’t have to call clients — The Vet2Pet client engagement system can automatically send veterinary appointment confirmation texts.
- Reminders for upcoming and past-due services — Through Vet2Pet, you can send reminders via text, email, or direct mail.
- On-hold messaging and responses to missed calls — Weave offers an automated text message that can be customized and sent to a client when you miss their call.
- The check-in process — Use Jotform or Google Docs to send forms to clients so they can complete them before their appointment.
- The check-out process — Within the Vet2Pet dashboard and mobile veterinary app, your team can send invoices and accept payments digitally, whether for in-person, drop-off, or virtual appointments.
We are in this profession because we feel fulfilled when we help others and their pets. But if we run ourselves down, it’s difficult to feel the satisfaction and warmth that the profession has to offer. We need to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter means changing the way we think and the habits we form to help us meet our standards of care and see more patients while preserving our hearts and minds.
Vetsource’s Vet2Pet all-in-one client engagement system can help you work smarter, so you can provide great experiences and top-notch care while seeing more patients each day. Sign up for a demo to learn how.