December 1, 2021
Time is a finite resource! Time is precious! Time is money! As part of a good practice management strategy, we should regularly review established protocols and processes and ensure we are improving our work flows. Here are three potential "high pay-off’ areas according to Heather Lowe AHT, MBA.
Heather Lowe AHT, MBA
Is increasing the use of technology for client communications really necessary?
Clients want the ability to book or request appointments and prescription refills online or via a mobile app at their convenience. Accessing their pet’s medical records, getting reminders, making product requests, etc. are increasingly valued by clients. They really do like it! Appointment confirmations can also be done exclusively through the use of technology. The efficiency gained is threefold:
- Phone calls to and from veterinary team members are reduced.
- Fewer errors occur as we are removing at least one additional person in the execution of any request.
- No-shows for appointments are minimized.
With pandemic protocols in mind, an additional benefit is you can reinforce the visit will be curbside and the client actions required upon arrival. This will help you set up realistic expectations for the client, and reduce the tedium of receptionists having to repeat instructions ad nauseam. Finally, you can use technology for pre-interaction improvements: pre-surgical forms, preventive care checklists, senior checklists, etc. can all be sent to the client in advance of an appointment to reduce ‘day of’ workload.
How to communicate and improve your appointment scheduling with your internal team.
Have an experienced veterinary technician/technologist or a veterinarian review the next day’s schedule late in the day, and provide input to the client service team. It is important that the person who takes responsibility for scheduling understands the impacts of poor time planning.
Client service answers the phone and is client-centric (as they should be!) so it makes sense they do the bookings, but the result is often at odds with the reality of providing service. For example, when the technician or veterinarian catches 3 ‘sickies’ back-to-back or euthanasia at the time of 2 puppy visits, they can provide instruction for appointments to be proactively moved or adjusted. Then, the appropriate staffing adjustments can be made which will potentially improve patient care, client service, and practice efficiency. This way, you can also be more respectful and courteous with clients in terms of their time and ability to make changes that work well with their schedule, helping maintain a strong relationship.
How can we take some pressure off our technicians and veterinarians?
If your practice is short-staffed or feeling ‘too busy’, change your position on in-house laboratory work. Send every possible test to an outside lab (check with the lab to ensure it doesn’t impact your contract – it typically doesn’t). Yes, it might be a bit more expensive for clients, but it will free up veterinary technician/technologist time, and veterinarian interpretation time. You can still do what you feel is “urgent”, but fecal testing and most blood work can be sent out. Remember, you can always go back to more in-house lab work as time and staffing levels permit!