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Avoid a Meltdown When Dr. Popular Isn’t Available

Avoid a Meltdown When Dr. Popular Isn’t Available

Client Experience

A longtime client calls and requests an appointment with Dr. Popular. While this veterinarian is blessed to be busy, you don’t want clients to have meltdowns when they can’t see their preferred doctor. What should you do? 

 

focus on what you can do.

Don’t tell the pet owner that the doctor is booked three weeks out because it will create a negative impression and could incite an argument. Say, “Dr. Popular’s next available appointment is Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. If your pet needs to be seen sooner, Dr. Next could see you tomorrow at 4 p.m. Which do you prefer?” 

practice forward booking.

When clients want their first choice of time, day, and doctor, have them book the next appointment during today’s exam. Use forward booking for progress exams, checkups, and disease-management exams for pets with chronic health conditions.  

When wrapping up today’s exam, Dr. Popular should introduce the concept of forward booking. If you have computers in exams rooms, he should schedule it now (Yes, the veterinarian needs to know how to use the scheduling tool in your practice-management software). Here are two examples of client conversations: 

 For a disease-management exam, explain the “why” behind the change in the frequency of exams and use benefit statements. Dr. Popular would say, “Because Molly was diagnosed with arthritis today and will begin long-term medication, I will need to see her every six months to manage her arthritis and check blood work in case we need to adjust medication dosages. Booking her next exam now will let you get your first choice of a time and date with me. Six months from today would be Jan. 9. I could see Molly at 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. Which do you prefer?” 

For a checkup, lead the client to book the next six- or 12-month exam. If the receptionist is scheduling the exam during checkout, she would say, “Just as your dentist has you schedule your next appointment at checkout, we do the same to proactively manage your pet’s health. Let’s book your pet’s next checkup for this same day and time next year. We will confirm two weeks before the exam, so if you need to change the appointment it will be easy. By scheduling today, you will get your first choice with Dr. Popular. He could see your pet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12 or 3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. Which do you prefer?” The first choice is the same day of the week and time as today’s appointment. The second choice is a different day of the week and time of day (morning vs. afternoon). Get scheduling techniques in my article on “Four Ways to Use Forward Booking” (https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/four-ways-to-use-forward-booking/).   

be persistent when pets require progress exams.

Because Dr. Popular is booking weeks in advance, the entire healthcare team must be dogged and communicate the importance of scheduling follow-up care today. After explaining how to clean a dog’s ears and apply ointment for an ear infection, the nurse would say, “Dr. Popular needs to perform a follow-up exam in two weeks for your dog’s ear infection. We strive to book follow-up care with the same doctor because Dr. Popular wants to see the condition successfully resolved. This will be a 15-minute appointment to examine your dog’s ears and determine if additional treatment will be needed. Dr. Popular could see your dog on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. or Friday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. Which do you prefer?” 

If the client procrastinates and waits to call your hospital in two weeks when care is due, Dr. Popular won’t be available. Booking with the same veterinarian helps you achieve exam efficiency. If Dr. Next will see Dr. Popular’s patient for follow-up care, he will need to spend more time reviewing the medical record to get up-to-date on the diagnosis, treatment, and prescribed medications. The follow-up visit may take twice as long if a different doctor sees the patient.  

add more urgent care slots to dr. popular’s schedule.  

I advise receptionists to block three urgent-care slots per doctor per day for same-day sick patients. Because clients will call every morning with sick patients that must be seen today, plan for them in your daily schedule. You may need more urgent care slots on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, when hospitals typically see higher volumes of sick patients.  

To determine how many urgent care slots Dr. Popular will need, create a spreadsheet that totals the number of exams he sees by day of the week. Let’s say he saw 22 patients on Thursday. Approximately 20 percent of patients are same-day sick appointments. Based on this formula, Dr. Popular would need seven urgent-care slots on Thursdays. Block an urgent-care slot at the top of each hour in Dr. Popular’s schedule on Thursdays. Get more insight in my YouTube video on “Overbooked and Can’t See Sick Pets? Here’s the Solution” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_oWxml2qyc&t=9s.  

Talk up other doctors.  

You want clients to feel confident and comfortable with every doctor in your practice. Dr. Popular, nurses, and the client-care team need to praise the skills and knowledge of other veterinarians in your hospital. When a client sighs after hearing Dr. Popular isn’t immediately available, promote Dr. Next. The receptionist would say, “Dr. Popular’s next availability is Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. I could schedule you with Dr. Next. He has a special interest in feline medicine and would love to meet Alex. I’m confident you’ll be satisfied with the quality of his medicine. Dr. Next could see Alex tomorrow at 4 p.m. Shall I schedule this exam?”

During his appointments, Dr. Popular also can share praises of his colleague, Dr. Next. Afterall, Dr. Popular may be the practice owner and hired Dr. Next. To transfer the client’s trust to another veterinarian, Dr. Popular might say, “Dr. Next has been part of my medical team for five years. We went to the same veterinary college and share similar medical interests and philosophies. If I’m unable to promptly see your pet, I’m confident that Dr. Next will do an exceptional job.” 

Because Dr. Popular will take vacations or may sell the practice one day, you must build trust in every veterinarian. Have your team discuss ways to equally distribute appointments amongst all doctors because the hospital’s goal is to have every veterinarian fully booked every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental Experience

5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental Experience

Client Experience

What if clients loved their pets’ dental experiences at your veterinary hospital?

Because most dogs and cats have periodontal disease by age 3, you will talk with clients multiple times about dental treatments over pets’ lifetimes.* Creating a positive experience for the first dental procedure will set you up for success when you have to present the need for future care. Here are five strategies for stellar client satisfaction with your dental services:

1. Tackle paperwork in advance.

Don’t wait until the morning of procedures to get signatures. Clients experienced road rage while driving to your clinic, chased the cat for 45 minutes trying to get it into the carrier, and are late for work. Have clients sign the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form on the day of diagnosis when they book procedures. At my recent seminar in Reno, Nev., a technician testified this tactic turned 20-minute dental and surgical admissions into 7 minutes.

A backup plan is to use text and email together.

Two days before the procedure, text the client to confirm the admission appointment: “See you tomorrow at 8 a.m. for <pet name’s> dental admission. No food after 10 p.m. Water is OK. We emailed consent forms to <client email>. Reply with questions.” The text prompts the client to check his email, where you may provide detailed fasting instructions and attach the treatment plan and consent form.

Your email message might say,

We will see <pet name> for a dental procedure tomorrow at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. Please withhold food after 10 p.m. tonight. Water is OK to drink to prevent dehydration. Your dental admission begins at 8 a.m. with a nurse, who will spend 15 minutes reviewing the consent form, answering your questions, and getting phone numbers where we may reach you the day of the procedure. I’ve attached your treatment plan and anesthesia consent form. To speed your admission, please bring these signed forms with you, or we are happy to answer questions during check-in. Please allow at least 15 minutes for <pet name>’s admission to our hospital. If you have questions, call or text 555-555-5555.” The email sets expectations for the length of time needed for admission and gives benefits of completing paperwork in advance.

2. Create concierge check-ins and dump the habit of “drop-offs.”

Avoid the traffic jam at the front desk when six clients arrive at the same time for surgical and dental admissions. Set admission appointments every 15 minutes. In the nurse column of your appointment schedule, schedule each check-in. Surgery nurses will handle morning admission appointments.

When the procedure is booked,

the receptionist will choose a specific check-in time and set expectations for the client. Say, “Your pet’s dental procedure is scheduled for Friday. Your admission appointment will be at 8 a.m. with a nurse. Please allow 15 minutes to receive instructions on how we will care for <pet name>. We will text and email you two days in advance to confirm the procedure. If you didn’t sign the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form today, we will email them, so you may review and sign forms before the day of the procedure.”

Have complex cases check in first.

This allows time for preanesthetic screening as well as longer recovery. In the privacy of exam rooms, have clients sign consent forms, collect phone numbers, answer questions, and explain when you will text, email or call following procedures.

Let’s say you have five surgical and dental procedures scheduled today with admission appointments from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. Here is a sample admission schedule:

 

Admission time

Patient

7:00 a.m.

Cruciate repair, Max, 9-year-old Bulldog

7:15 a.m.

Grade 4 dental procedure with extractions, Bella, 14-year-old Toy Poodle

7:30 a.m.

Grade 3 dental procedure with extractions, Sammy, 7-year-old Golden Retriever

7:45 a.m.

Grade 1 dental procedure, Tiger, 3-year-old Siamese cat

8:00 a.m.

Neuter, Leo, 6-month-old Russian Blue cat

 

3.  Provide comfort with wakeup texts and photos.

On your anesthetic consent forms, ask clients, “How should we notify you when your pet wakes from anesthesia?” and let them check text, email or call. Your text should explain the patient is awake and resting, confirm the discharge appointment time, and include the nurse’s name, which personalizes service and communicates who cared for the patient. If clients have questions before picking up pets, they know which nurse to call and request, letting the receptionist quickly connect calls.

Avoid a snapshot of the pet with the cage door closed,

which look like the animal is in jail. Show your loving nursing care. Your text would say: “Alex is awake and resting. Dental treatment went well. See you at 4 p.m. for discharge appt. Call Kathy with questions, 555-555-5555.”

Never use a personal or practice cell phone to text clients

because you can’t legally document messages in medical records. Instead, use texting services that time and date stamp text conversations such as:

 

4.  Set discharge appointments and show value for professional services.

During admission, the nurse would tell the client, “Let’s schedule your pet’s discharge appointment after 4 p.m., when <pet name> will be ready to go home. You will meet with a doctor or nurse for 15 minutes, who will explain the results of the procedure, provide medication instructions, share images and x-rays, and answer your questions. Do you prefer 4:30 or 4:45 p.m.?” (Client responds.) “Because you requested text notification when <pet name> wakes up, we will text you a photo and remind you of the discharge appointment at 4:30 p.m. If you have questions today, here is my business card so you may ask for me.”

As with admissions, put discharge appointments in the nurse column in the schedule.

If a doctor will release the patient, put the appointment in that veterinarian’s schedule. Discharge appointments for routine procedures will take approximately 15 minutes. If a nurse will discharge the patient, a veterinarian may want to do the wakeup phone call.

Take time to give clients guided tours of before-and-after dental photos and x-rays.

Offer to share digital images because clients may boast about the quality of your care on social media and save them with pets’ medical records.

 

5.  Provide exam door to car door service.

Whomever discharges a hospitalized patient should escort the client to the car and get the pet safely inside. Show clients how to properly secure a cat’s carrier. Also share The Catalyst Council’s video on your website and social media.

Double leash dogs with two slip leashes to prevent escape,

walk the patient to the car, and show the client how to properly lift the dog inside, especially following orthopedic surgery or for senior dogs with arthritis. Once the patient is securely in the car, the nurse removes both leashes and tells the client, “I have an extra leash. Please put this leash in your glove box and use it in case of an emergency. If you have a medical emergency with your pet or need to rescue a stray animal, you can quickly have a leash ready. The leash has our phone number on it, so you may call to tell us you’re on the way. Thanks for letting us care for <pet name> today!” Order personalized slip leashes with your hospital name and phone number through Covetrus.

When you wow clients with positive dental experiences, they will appreciate that your service matches your medicine. Increasing clients’ confidence in anesthetic procedures will lead them to say “YES!” the next time dental care is necessary.

Reference:

*Periodontal disease. American Veterinary Dental College. Accessed Nov. 1, 2018.

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