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6 Ways Your Veterinary Practice Can Survive COVID-19

Posted in Guest Blogger @ Apr 2nd 2020 - By Tracy Kamens, Director OnPoint Veterinary Coaching
6 Ways Your Veterinary Practice Can Survive Covid 19

Veterinary hospitals have been declared essential businesses.

However, it is also inevitable that we will need to concentrate on the messages that are being sent out to your clients. Just some of the essential questions that your clients will be looking for answers to are:

What are the most important preventative healthcare measures their pets need?

How do they know if their pet “needs” to be seen?

Can you provide the information/diagnosis and advice via telemedicine/video consults instead? 

So although you will need to adjust many of your plans on a day-to-day basis, it is important to consider the things you can to do ensure your practice survives during these unprecedented times. Here are six strategies you should implement now:

1. Provide Car Park / No Contact Drop-Off Service

To maintain the highest level of social distancing in order to keep clients and employees safe, lock your doors to all but essential staff and restrict pet owners from entering your building.

When clients call to book appointments, explain the process:

"Please call us from your car when you arrive for your pet’s appointment, we will ask you questions about your pet and to explain the services we will deliver. Then a veterinary nurse will meet you at either the designated drop off area, or at your car. We will then take your pet inside the hospital and perform care while you wait in your car.

If you would like to be part of the consultation we can call you while we are examining your pet as well through our video consultation process.

Or, once the examination has been completed, the vet will call you on your mobile to explain the examination findings, treatments, and medications.

One of our team will then phone you to discuss the fees and get your credit-card information for payment.

The veterinary nurse will bring your pet, medications, and paid receipt to you in our car park.

We appreciate your trust in allowing us to care for your pet and maintain a safe environment for everyone."

2. Create an Online Medication Refill and OTC Order Form

NOTE: VETCHECK has them as part of their functionality

Clients will still continue to need to refill meds, buy food, buy preventatives etc. and you can’t afford to miss this recurring revenue. In addition to car park pickup of foods and medications, talk with your website provider about setting up and promoting your online ordering option.

If you already have some online forms, now is the time to promote them by sending email and/or texts to clients, sharing on social media, updating your on-hold messages, and telling every caller. 

Another great opportunity, depending on your capacity is to set up a delivery service. You should also create reminders in your system to alert you as to when a pet will be due for their next supply of products. This situation is not going to end quickly so the more reminders you have in your system the more likely you will be able to keep pets healthy in the future. 

This also goes for your other services – such as reminders for the senior exams, heartworm prevention, cartrophen and cytopoint injections and other services. This could be a great task for several of your work from home staff – take a specific reminder – do outbound calls with any pets overdue and look to update reminder notices so that there is at least 2 more reminders past when you normally send them e.g. add both a post 3 month and 6 month reminder for vaccinations. You may even want to add, “Spot” is now a year overdue” as if they don’t get their vaccinations done during this “crisis” the pets' reminder may fall off the system completely.

An over-the-counter flea/tick product also could be set up on auto reminders. When one dose remains, you would alert the client via text, app, or email: “Your next box of <brand name> to protect your pet from fleas and ticks is due you can either collect or we can deliver it to your door please let us know which you would prefer."  

3. Offer Telemedicine/Video Consult Services.

If offering telemedicine and/or video consult services is not something you have considered before, then you may need to do some research to determine which platform is going to work best for your practice. If you would like some help deciding, please get in touch as we would be happy to discuss the pros and cons of several on offer.

Ideally you are looking for live video consultations with a messaging tool that allows pictures, videos, and other attachments that will let you share information back and forth with clients. Some telemedicine apps integrate with practice-management software for medical record-keeping and invoicing. You can use telehealth for initial consultations (as long as you have seen the pet in the last 12 months) as well as follow-up care. 

You will also need to define the types of cases you can see using telemedicine. Again, contact us for recommendations if you are not sure where to start or refer to our resources page for more information. 

Besides helping you see patients virtually during the COVID-19 crisis, telemedicine lets you improve low compliance for follow-up exams and post-surgical assessments. The AVA as well as all state surgeons’ boards have updated their policy guidelines so be sure to refer to them when setting up your telemedicine policies and procedures.

4. Audit Your Reminders and Your Inventory

As mentioned above, make a list of every vaccine, medication, diagnostic test, and treatment that needs to be repeated. Let’s say your practice recommends blood tests for dogs on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) every six months. Send a reminder one month before the test is due so the client has ample time to schedule an appointment. You’ll also prevent the confrontational conversation when a receptionist has to tell the client her dog’s NSAID can’t be refilled until the test is done. Likewise, send reminders for senior pets that require early detection screens, blood pressure checks, and other recurring diagnostics.

By sending sending medication refill reminders, you’ll eliminate the frustration of last-minute calls from clients who wait until the last pill is gone. Refill reminders can be app notices, emails, or texts that link to your online order form. 

Have you been meaning to rationalise your product ranges?

Now is the time. Do you really need 2 spot-on treatments that do the same thing? When was the last time you audited your food sales? How many varieties do you order less than 3 times a year, yet they still take up shelf space? How many NSAIDs or ear treatments do you stock? If you want help all we need is your last 12 months purchasing data from your wholesaler. Give us a day or two and we can come back to you with some cost savings solutions. 

5. Increase Callbacks  

Electronic medical records make it easy to search patients by diagnostic codes. Check the exam and diagnostic status of patients with your top 10 chronic health problems such as arthritis, cardiomyopathy, allergies, diabetes, and others. 

Let’s say your standard of care is to see diabetic patients every three months to monitor glucose levels, check weight loss or gain, and assess overall health. Run a report on diabetic patients, sorting by the date of the last visit. 

Have your receptionists call clients with diabetic patients that you have not seen in over three months and use the following script:

“Dr. <Name> asked me to call you about <pet name>. He/she noticed that <pet name> is overdue for an exam and blood test to monitor glucose levels so we can manage your pet’s diabetes.

Dr. <Name> can see <pet name> on Monday at 11 a.m. or Thursday at 4 p.m. Which do you prefer?”

Lead the client to schedule with the yes-or-yes technique, which gets stronger compliance than the yes-or-no choice of “Do you want to schedule an appointment?” 

COVID-19 is an opportunity for your veterinary practice to examine the way you serve clients and patients. 

6. Measure Benchmarks and Metrics

Now more than ever the importance of creating a metrics dashboard is paramount. In order for you to know how you are weathering the storm you need to know where your business was at this time last year and how things are stacking up on a weekly basis this year. Get in touch if you would like to get a copy of our COVID-19 Balanced Scorecard where we assess 16 key areas of your business to compare year on year. 

APL Accountants also have a very simple spreadsheet to help you determine cash flow and if you will be able to afford all of your staff on their current wages. 

The initiatives you start today will help you get through this crisis and establish ongoing revenue streams. Use this pandemic as a reason to work “on” your business rather than just “in” your business.

If you have any questions for Tracy on how your veterinary practice can weather the COVID-19 storm, ask them in the Comments section below.

This post was originally published on the OnPoint Practice Coaching Blog and has been republished with full permission. 

Click here to visit the OnPoint Veterinary Coaching Business Directory Page for more information.

About Tracy

Tracy Kamens, Director at OnPoint Practice Coaching, is a fully qualified DiSC trainer and has been working in the veterinary industry for over 35 years – as a veterinary technician, practice manager/ owner, industry rep, and business coach.

She has most recently been doing extensive coaching with veterinary practices in the areas of staff engagement, team dynamics, culture and business growth opportunities. With a BSc from Cornell, a diploma of practice management and most recently a diploma in leadership, Tracy as spent her career to date pursuing new skills so that she can share her passion and learnings with others.

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