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Stop Clients’ Bad Habits of Emergency Refills

Stop Clients’ Bad Habits of Emergency Refills

The habit is predictable. Every day, multiple clients call your veterinary clinic within minutes of closing time to request prescription refills. “My dog took his last pill this morning, and I need a refill today. I’m on the way to your hospital now. Could you wait for me?” pleads the pet owner.

You both want the dog to get timely medication, but why did the client wait until the last dose was gone before contacting you? To avoid the stress of urgent refills, take a preventive approach with these strategies:

Alert clients when refills are coming due.

My cat, Caymus, takes benazepril daily. I refill his medication every three months. When you dispense his next prescription, create a refill reminder for 11 weeks, when one week of doses would remain. Alerts could be phone calls, emails, texts or app messages. Send alerts through your practice-management software or third-party providers.

At Blue Sky Animal Clinic in Loveland, Colo., Practice Manager Chrystal Bell wanted to be able to call and text from the same phone number her clients knew. Zipwhip lets you use your existing business phone number to send and receive texts. Now clients text refill requests to Blue Sky Animal Clinic’s main phone number. Employees reply when messages pop up on the desktop screen.

Push notifications also let you tell clients when they need to repurchase. A VitusVet call study found the average client service representative (CSR) answers 600 calls per week at a veterinary hospital.1 While more than 60 percent of calls generate revenue through appointments and prescription refills, the average veterinary hospital is missing $123,000 of gross revenue due to inefficiencies in phone-based customer service. (*1)

Links in your emails, texts or app can let clients request prescription refills electronically. Clients will enjoy the satisfaction of one-click refills, while your client service team will be overjoyed when you reduce call volume by 20 or more calls each day.

 

Enter the number of refills available.

If the veterinarian wants to perform a blood test every six months and the technician is filling a one-month supply, five refills of 30 tablets would remain. The number of refills will print on each prescription label, letting the client see the countdown of 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 refill left.

While I agree that veterinarians will need to approve each prescription refill, don’t punish clients with long hold times on the phone. Note the number of refills that are available in medical records, avoiding the find-the-doctor game each time clients call with refill requests. Tell the pet owner, “<Client name>, I see that you have five refills available. What time would you like to pick up your pet’s medication? I will have the doctor confirm the refill. I will only call you if the doctor has any questions or concerns. Otherwise, we will see you at <time>.” After speaking with the caller, the CSR could ask the veterinarian to approve the prescription and note the requested pickup time for the technician who will fill the medication.

 

Set up reminders for drug-monitoring tests.

Clients may become outraged when you decline their emergency refill request because blood work is due. To avoid confrontation, your medical team needs to proactively remind clients when future testing will be due. Veterinarians should set protocols for the frequency of blood tests for long-term drugs such as phenobarbital, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), thyroid medication and others.

When a technician fills a long-term prescription, enter two reminders: 1) drug-monitoring test and 2) Prescription refill. Let’s say your veterinarians want to perform blood work every six months for dogs taking NSAIDs. Set the reminder for 30 days before testing is due, which will trigger postal, email, text and/or app notices to the client. Your reminder should explain the reason for testing and lead the client to schedule now. The reminder would state, “Drug monitoring is necessary for <pet name> to continue to safely take medication and is required before the next refill. Please schedule your pet’s blood test before <date> so we may provide prompt refills.” If an exam also is due, schedule the appointment with a veterinarian. If the blood test is the only service due, make a technician appointment for the blood draw.

If clients haven’t responded to reminders, technicians would call one week before testing is due. Say, “This is <technician name> from <Your Veterinary Hospital>. We saw <pet name> six months ago, and Dr. <Name> needs to monitor his thyroid level. During a technician appointment, we’ll collect a blood sample and run the thyroid test. Drug monitoring is necessary for <pet name> to continue to safely take his thyroid medicine and is required before the next refill. <Pet name> will be out of thyroid medication next week. We could see you Monday at 10 a.m. or Tuesday at 5 p.m. Which choice is convenient for you?” Use the two-yes-options technique to guide pet owners to schedule.

 

Place a sticker on the vial when one refill remains.

When blood work will be due before the next refill, put a label on the prescription vial such as “Blood test required before next refill.” The prescription label also will note that zero refills remain. Use a bright-colored sticker rather than typing “Blood test required before next refill” on the label. Few clients re-read labels for chronic medications when dosing instructions remain the same.

The sticker alerts both clients and employees. When the client arrives to pick up medication, the CSR would see the sticker and say, “I see that this is your last refill before blood work is due. Let’s schedule a 15-minute technician appointment for the blood draw. We could see your pet next Tuesday at 1 p.m. or Wednesday at 11 a.m. Which choice works for you?” Schedule first before collecting payment for the medication because an appointment reminder will print on today’s receipt. In addition to using stickers on chronic medications, also put the “Blood test required before next refill” sticker on heartworm preventatives when a heartworm test will be due.

 

Set up auto refills.

Retail pharmacies such as grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS Health use text alerts when prescriptions are ready. Research conducted by the CVS Health Research Institute found that pharmacy customers enrolled in digital and online programs have better medication adherence and reduced healthcare costs. (*2)

Your veterinary hospital could use an auto-refill strategy for over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If a client buys six months of heartworm preventatives, set up one auto refill in five months when one dose will remain. Alert the client when the medication has been refilled with calls, emails, texts or app messages such as “Your pet’s heartworm preventative has been refilled and is ready for pickup. One dose remains, and we want to provide ongoing protection from deadly heartworms.” An auto-refill strategy would increase compliance for 12-month dispensing. Because a heartworm test would be due at the completion of one automatic refill, you would send reminders for the physical exam, heartworm test, prescription renewal and other services included in a preventive checkup.

An over-the-counter flea/tick product also could be set up on auto refill. Let’s say the brand has a “buy six, get two free” promotion. At month 7 when one dose remains, you would alert the client, “Your auto refill of <brand name> to protect your pet from fleas and ticks has been filled and is ready for pick up. Your purchase is eligible for two free doses, a value of $___, which we have included with your refill.”

Midwest Veterinary Supply’s partnership with MyVetStoreOnline.com lets clients set up recurring orders of any product, from food to medication (www.midwestvet.net/practice-solutions/home-delivery-solutions/mvso.html). The “Easy Dose It!” program sends clients a single preventative dose in the mail each month with free shipping.

 

Send dosing alerts.

During exams, show clients how to set up alerts on the day of the month that they need to give flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. Provide instructions through email blasts, e-newsletters and social media posts, too.

 

Offer refills through your online store.

When clients get refill notices, offer the convenience of online or app ordering. Ask your veterinary distributor about setting up your own online store. Clients get home delivery of medications and diets with auto-ship benefits and reminder emails. You set the price of all products. Clients pay your hospital’s retail price plus shipping, handling and applicable taxes.

Make this a hassle-free year of managing prescriptions. These strategies can graduate beyond prescription drugs. Think of every consumable product your hospital sells—diets, dental chews, preventatives, pet toothpaste—and create refill push notifications. You’ll improve client loyalty, patient care and the financial health of your pharmacy.

Reference:

*1 – DiFazio M. Veterinary front desk workers are heroes too and here are the numbers to prove it. Published June 28, 2016. Accessed December 20, 2016 at http://content.vitusvet.com/blog/veterinary-front-desk-workers-are-heros-too-and-here-are-the-numbers-to-prove-it.

*2 – CVS Health introduces new digital pharmacy tools to help make medication adherence easier and more convenient. CVS Health, Nov. 18, 2015. Accessed Dec. 19, 2016 at https://cvshealth.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-health-introduces-new-digital-pharmacy-tools-help-make-medication.

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How to See More Patients

How to See More Patients

Seeing patients every 30 minutes doesn’t work. If Dr. Smith has outpatient exams from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour for lunch, he will see 16 patients. His daily production will be $3,072 to $3,360 based on a $60 exam fee and average doctor transaction of 3.2 to 3.5 times the exam fee.  (*1) Tweaking scheduling techniques will let Dr. Smith see eight more patients each day, increasing income $4,608 to $5,040. Let’s start making more money:

Step 1: Schedule exam time based on the reason for the visit.

Don’t put every appointment in a 30-minute slot because a progress exam will take less time while a sick-patient visit may take longer.

Veterinarians and receptionists will work together to create scheduling guidelines. Don’t force this significant change on employees without their input—or it’s guaranteed to fail. Talk about what works and doesn’t work with your current schedule, how nurses support doctors in exams, and which scheduling tweaks will have the greatest impact. When making any change in your hospital, answer:

  1. How will this change improve client experiences?
  2. How will this change improve patient care?
  3. How will this change grow revenue?

Teamwork will help everyone understand the “why” behind scheduling renovations and get buy-in to follow guidelines consistently. Receptionists and doctors will need to define appointment lengths such as:

  • 10 minutes: Booster vaccines without exams, Level 1 progress exams for minor problems such as ear infections, and surgical discharges when a doctor needs to provide instructions.
  • 20 minutes: Adult preventive checkups, complicated medical/surgical discharges, Level 2 progress exams for complex problems, disease-management exams for chronic conditions, and second, third, and fourth puppy/kitten exams.
  • 30 minutes: Sick and urgent care exams, senior preventive exams, new clients, limping or symptoms that may require radiographs, skin cases, ophthalmic exams, second opinions, quality of life consults, and unattended euthanasia.
  • 40 minutes: Patients with vomiting and/or diarrhea, first puppy/kitten exams, attended euthanasia, and exotic pets.

Expand this list based on the types of appointments you see. Keep the quick-reference chart of scheduling guidelines on reception computers or laminated cards so tips become habit-forming. Your practice-management software also lets you designate appointment types, which would automatically block the correct length based on the exam type.

 

Step 2: Think in 60-minute blocks.

Your goal is to book every minute of each hour, avoiding gaps in the schedule. A 60-minute block could include a 10-minute progress exam, a 20-minute preventive checkup, and a 30-minute sick-patient exam. The next 60 minutes might consist of a new client appointment followed by a disease-management exam. Both choices had you successfully fill each hour.

 

Step 3: Book sick-patient exams next to checkups.

If you schedule three sick patients in a row, you risk running behind and creating an avalanche of late exams. Preventive checkups are more predictable and likely to stay on time. If you sandwich a sick-patient exam between two checkups, your schedule could stay on track.

 

Step 4: Leverage nurses.

Evaluate which appointments could shift from the schedule of veterinarians to nurses, such as giving booster vaccines that don’t require an exam, expressing anal glands, changing bandages, administering fluids, trimming nails, collecting samples for drug monitoring, and more.

 

Step 5: Evaluate as you go.

You’ll need two to four weeks to transition to the new scheduling system because you may have forward-booked appointments for progress exams. Everyone will need training on how the new scheduling system will work and what their roles are in executing it. Set a transition date to switch from the old to new scheduling method. The transition is best made quickly and completely.

During the first 90 days of implementation, have a doctor and receptionist supervisor meet weekly to see what worked well in the schedule’s flow and identify tweaks to make. Fine-tuning during the first 90 days will help you define your perfect exam flow.

 

Step 6: Track results.

Measure before-and-after progress. Create a spreadsheet on the number of appointments and revenue for 30 days before changes were implemented, and then 30, 60, and 90 days after the new schedule began. You should see up to 33 percent growth.

 

Share results.

During staff meetings and invite employees to share feedback. When employees see results and know they were part of making it happen, your practice will thrive.

References:

*1 – Tumblin D. Problem: Your Average Doctor Transition Is Low. Veterinary Team Brief, January/February 2018. Available at: www.veterinaryteambrief.com/article/problem-your-average-doctor-transaction-low. Accessed on March 10, 2019.

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How Nurses Can Grow Your Revenue

How Nurses Can Grow Your Revenue

What is the difference between an under- and top-performing healthcare team?

Let’s say you schedule appointments every 30 minutes. In an eight-hour workday, one doctor sees 14 patients and has an average transaction of $160, generating $2,240 in revenue. Your average doctor transaction should be 3.2 to 3.5 times your exam fee, according to the Well-Managed Practice Benchmarks Study.(*1) If you leverage your nursing team and schedule time based on the reason for the visit, you could see 21 patients per day, producing $3,360 per veterinarian and averaging three patients per hour. Revenue rises when you add dental income that nurses deliver.

How can nurses help you grow revenue? Follow these steps:

Check your staff-to-doctor ratio.

Every employee feels the hospital is short-staffed. Chances are, you may have the right number of employees but are not efficiently using them. Aim for staff-to-doctor ratios of 4.7 team members per full-time veterinarian, according to WTA Consultants in Columbus, Ohio. (*2) This support staff includes two nurses, one veterinary assistant, one receptionist, and 0.7 managers.

Assign doctor-nurse teams.

Designate daily which staff will be outpatient nurses (exams) and inpatient nurses (treatment area). Pair two nurses or assistants with each veterinarian. This medical team of three works together the entire day. Define roles and tasks each support employee will perform. Doctors need support from the right person with the right skills at the right time.

Veterinarians should focus on three medical responsibilities:

  1. Diagnose health conditions
  2. Share treatment solutions
  3. Perform surgery and procedures

Nurses do everything else. Think of nurses and assistants as “staff extenders” to perform non-doctor functions such as client education, technical skills, and medical-record management. This approach lets you see 30 percent to 40 percent more appointments in the same amount of time. (*3)

Here are examples of outpatient and inpatient nursing duties:

Outpatient nurse duties

Inpatient nurse duties

Get patients’ vital signs

Collect samples for diagnostic testing prior to doctor entering the exam room

Take brief histories

Run lab work

Educate clients

Take x-rays

Fill medications

Perform dentistry

Be a transcriptionist, writing in medical records while the doctor explains exam findings and diagnoses

Place catheters

Review medication and treatment instructions with clients

Run and monitor anesthesia

Admit and discharge surgical and dental patients

Monitor hospitalized patients

Provide discharge and medication instructions

Administer medications and treatments to hospitalized patients per doctor instructions

Handle nurse appointments

Assist with surgery

(Expand and tailor this list of duties for your hospital.)

State laws vary on which duties credentialed veterinary nurses are allowed to perform. Check your state’s practice act here. You will use three types of nursing teams:

Outpatient nursing team:

You may use two credentialed nurses, one nurse and one assistant, or two assistants. For a 20-minute checkup, Nurse #1 spends the first five minutes gathering a brief history, getting the patient’s vital signs, and explaining services and products that will be delivered today. Confirm the reason for the visit at the beginning of each exam. Say, “I’m <name>, the nurse who will assist Dr. <Name>. For your pet’s checkup, we will do a nose-to-tail exam, vaccines, heartworm/tick screen, intestinal parasite screen, and refill preventatives. I will take a brief history, collect samples for testing, and get your pet’s vital signs. Then the doctor will begin the exam. Does your pet have any health or behavior concerns you want to discuss with the doctor?” If the client shares a concern, this becomes the chief complaint that the veterinarian will address before delivering preventive care. Watch my video on “The #1 Question to Ask to Keep Exams on Time”. Nurse #1 takes the patient to the treatment area where an inpatient nurse or assistant will help collect samples.

When the patient returns to the exam room, the doctor is ready to begin. The veterinarian will spend the middle 10 minutes of the appointment performing the exam, vaccinating the pet, discussing exam findings and test results, and answering the client’s questions. Nurse #1 stays to assist the doctor with the physical exam.

Meanwhile, Nurse #2 is starting the next appointment, allowing the doctor to consecutively work two exam rooms. Nurse #1 closes the first appointment, reviewing preventative or medication instructions and providing client education. This exam work flow lets your team see three or more patients per hour, significantly increasing productivity and income.

Surgical nursing team:

The veterinarian prioritizes today’s surgical cases. A nurse and two assistants support the surgical doctor. The nurse anesthetizes patients, places catheters, monitors patients, assists the veterinarian during surgery, and updates medical records. In the afternoon, the same nurse may discharge patients. Assistant #1 preps patients and moves them into the surgical suite. Assistant #2 recovers surgical patients. The veterinarian changes gloves and follows sterile surgical protocols between each patient. The nursing team calls, emails, or texts clients as each patient is recovered and confirms discharge appointments.

 

Dental nursing team:

By age 3, most dogs and cats have periodontal disease. (*4) Because doctors will diagnose dental disease daily and advise treatment, you want to schedule dental procedures Monday through Friday to meet the demand. The veterinarian performs pre-surgical exams, sets anesthetic protocols, oversees cases, and does oral surgery.

Nurses lead your dental profit center. The dental team includes one nurse and one assistant. The nurse anesthetizes patients, places catheters, and checks the assistant’s work. The assistant takes dental x-rays, cleans and polishes teeth, recovers patients, and updates clients.3 The veterinarian reviews x-rays and performs extractions and oral surgery. While employees will always help teammates when needed, the key to maximum production is simple: Nurses don’t do assistants’ work, and doctors don’t do nurses’ work.3

 

Schedule nurse appointments.

Use nurse appointments for admissions, discharges, and outpatient services that support staff perform. When clients walk in for nail trims and bandage changes, these unscheduled services may put additional stress on your nursing team and cause clients to wait when employees aren’t immediately available. To bring structure to walk-in chaos, create a column for nurse appointments in your schedule just as you have rows for doctor exams. Concentrate blocks of nurse appointments during afternoons and evenings such as 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

Avoid nurse appointments for outpatient services during mornings, when your nursing team is preparing for surgical and dental procedures and checking hospitalized patients. Morning nurse appointments are limited to surgical and dental admissions. Let’s say you have six procedures today. Schedule admission appointments every 10 minutes from 7 to 8 a.m. Because doctor exams haven’t started, the assistant will admit patients in the privacy of exam rooms, where clients may comfortably ask medical and financial questions.

Set guidelines for nurse appointments so receptionists properly budget time:

  • 10-minute nurse appointments: Express anal glands, collect blood samples for drug monitoring or follow-up testing, perform intestinal parasite screens, insert microchips, provide Level 1 nail trims (cooperative patients), remove sutures, booster vaccines that don’t require a doctor’s exam, and check the weight of pets on weight-management programs.
  • 20-minute nurse appointments: Change bandages, clean ears, Level 2 nail trim (patient requires two or more nurses), administer subcutaneous fluids, collect urine, and perform laser therapy.
  • 30-minute nurse appointments: Take scheduled follow-up radiographs, provide grooming services for birds, and deliver services for multi-pet nurse appointments.

In my online course, “Be Efficient in the Exam Room,” I share flex-10 and high-density scheduling concepts along with exam flow by job type. Have your medical team evaluate every step of delivering outpatient and inpatient services. Ask, “Why do we do it this way?” and “How could we be more efficient?” When you leverage your nursing team, you can deliver more patient care, better manage your workday for less stress, and enjoy increased revenue.

References:

*1 – Tumblin D. Problem: Your Average Doctor Transition Is Low. Clinicians Brief, January/February 2018. Available at: www.cliniciansbrief.com/article/problem-your-average-doctor-transaction-low. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.

*2 – DVM360.com staff. Benchmarks 2016 Shows Strong Revenue Growth, Higher Staff Levels. Veterinary Economics; Sept. 7, 2016. Available at: http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com/benchmarks-2016-shows-strong-revenue-growth-higher-staff-levels. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.

*3 –  Catanzaro T. Veterinary Healthcare Services: Options in Delivery. Iowa State University Press, 2000:23-25, 52.

*4 –  American Veterinary Dental College. Periodontal Disease: Information for Pet Owners page. Available at: www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.

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Can You Compete With $12 Per Hour at Chick-Fil-A?

Can You Compete With $12 Per Hour at Chick-Fil-A?

My neighborhood Chick-Fil-A restaurant has a banner advertising jobs starting at $12 per hour. The fast-food franchise boasts a family culture, college scholarships, career paths to management or ownership, and work-free Sundays. Chick-Fil-A ranks among the top 100 in the 2018 Best Places to Work from The Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards. (*1) Selling more than chicken, Chick-Fil-A joins other top employers, including Facebook, Google, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Nestle Purina, and more.

I pulled into the ever-present drive-thru line to see what kind of service $12-per-hour workers deliver. Two employees with mobile devices were taking orders to reduce wait time. A Millennial greeted me, asked my name and what they could get started for me. As I drove to the window for my sandwich, the cashier welcomed me by name. When I thanked her, she replied, “It’s my pleasure” rather than the commonplace “no problem.”

Your veterinary hospital may be competing for the same entry-level workers. Indeed, a top job website, reports an average of $12.43 per hour for veterinary receptionists with typical tenure of one to three years. (*2) Job ads offered hourly wages from $13.22 to $20. Now the largest U.S. generation, Millennials rank compensation as the sixth quality they look for in employers. In a Harvard Business Review survey, Millennial job candidates want the opportunity to learn and grow, quality management, interest in the type of work, and opportunity for advancement. (*3)

 

To compete for entry-level workers, your veterinary hospital needs to:

1. Offer competitive wages.

Low unemployment rates in your community demand higher compensation. Profit sharing and bonuses can increase what employees take home. Give performance reviews to new hires at 30, 60 and 90 days. Once they complete the 90-day introductory period, include salary reviews with performance appraisals. You might hire candidates at $13 per hour, and then tell them a raise to $14 awaits if they complete the training program and earn a positive review.

 

2. Create a supportive culture.

Northfield Veterinary Hospital in Denver complements great pay with a great work environment. Perks include amusement park days, monthly staff dinners, a supportive team environment, and no staying late. “I’m an owner at the hospital and having a certified veterinary technician who has worked in the trenches for many years is appealing to staff,” says Jen Weston, CVT, manager and co-owner. “We have a great staff who are willing to train, answer questions and be supportive.”  At Trinity Animal Hospital in Holly Springs, N.C., the team goes bowling and plays laser tag, which its vendors sponsor.

American Animal Hospital in Omaha, Neb., conducts working interviews to prove its culture is the best in town. “We show candidates our friendly, positive work environment,” says Tabitha Show, LVT and practice manager. “Without a strong culture, you have nothing.”

 

3. Train up.

The staff of 30 at Roanoke Animal Hospital in Roanoke, Texas, has an average longevity of 8 years, with several employees staying longer than 10 years. “If you work in the kennel and have a desire to progress in this field, we will train you,” says Liz Hill Bird, hospital administrator. Teaching kennel workers to become veterinary assistants leads to job satisfaction and career paths.

 

4. Create clear career paths.

At Adobe Veterinary Center in Tucson, Ariz., Dr. Christine Staten designed tiered positions for receptionists and technicians. Employees get a list of skills to master for each level with test-outs. Pay increases as team members graduate to higher tiers.

 

5. Provide continuing-education opportunities.

Conferences are awesome perks, but few practices can spend thousands for every employee. Start a journal club where you share and discuss client-service and management articles. Use webinars for staff meetings. Go to community events that distributor and pharmaceutical representatives host. Join a local practice managers group. Have doctors present what they learned at conferences and which ideas your team could implement.

 

6. Delegate projects.

Employees may be interested in marketing the practice on social media, making YouTube videos, designing educational bulletin boards, managing inventory, establishing an angel fund, and other projects that could grow your business. “Train them for new skills,” advises Nikki Richardson, hospital administrator at Trinity Animal Hospital. “Team member retention and low turnover will make you more money in the long run.”

 

7. Offer flexible schedules.

If your practice is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, you need staffing for 10 business hours each day. Consider allowing employees to work four 10-hour shifts for a total of 40 hours per week. One receptionist works Monday through Thursday while another covers Tuesday to Friday. Organize shifts so you have appropriate daily staffing coverage while letting employees enjoy four-day workweeks.

 

8. Provide veterinary care savings.

Follow IRS guidelines of no more than a 20 percent discount, or you risk audit and tax consequences. Define limits on the number of personal pets covered and have a manager enter charges to prevent abuse of the benefit. Some practices pay employees’ pet insurance premiums in lieu of discounted professional services.

 

9. Have uniforms.

Employees represent your brand. Set standards of appearance for uniforms, name tags, jewelry and personal grooming. The employee handbook at Taco Bell explains, “It’s important to be proud of the way you look every day. When you look good, Taco Bell looks good.” (*4)

 

While helping pets and people leads to tremendous job satisfaction, altruism won’t pay the bills. A combination of competitive wages and great perks will help your veterinary hospital attract and retain the best candidates.

References:

*1 – 2018 Best Places to Work: Employees’ Choice. Glassdoor. Accessed March 16, 2019 at www.glassdoor.com/Award/Best-Places-to-Work-LST_KQ0,19.htm.

*2 – Veterinary receptionist salaries in the United States. Updated Feb. 17, 2018. Accessed Feb. 19, 2018 at www.indeed.com/salaries/Veterinary-Receptionist-Salaries.

*3 – Rigoni, B. and Adkins, A. What Millennials Want from a New Job. Harvard Business Review. Published May 11, 2016. Accessed Feb. 19, 2018 at https://hbr.org/2016/05/what-millennials-want-from-a-new-job.

*4 – Taco Bell Handbook. Published October 2015. Accessed Feb. 19, 2018 at www.hralliance.net/cofiles/38305_c6131950/files/Taco%20Bell%20Handbook(1).pdf.

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Could a Bad Phone Call Cost Your Clinic $11,000?

Could a Bad Phone Call Cost Your Clinic $11,000?

On a busy Saturday morning, a price shopper calls your veterinary clinic and asks, “How much are shots for a new puppy?” With three clients already holding, the frazzled receptionist says, “We’re really busy right now. Can I call you back in 10 minutes?” The price shopper responds, “No thanks, I’ll try another animal hospital.”

The caller phones a neighboring veterinary hospital with a friendly receptionist who answers questions and books the puppy’s first exam. Quick and welcoming service earned the second hospital nearly $11,000 in lifetime preventive care for the puppy—and the new client has three dogs.

A new client who visits today with an 8-week-old puppy and returns for preventive care over the dog’s 12-year lifespan will spend thousands with your practice. Based on average fees from the AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 10th edition, here is an overview of preventive care spending for one new canine patient: (*1)

Preventive care servicesAverage paid per visit# of times deliveredSubtotal
Puppy$1203$360
Adult, age 1 to 6$1256$750
Senior, age 7 and older$1866$1,116
Dental treatments$51610$5,160
Heartworm, flea/tick preventatives annual cost
 (Average of $25 per month)
$30012$3,600
TOTAL$10,986

The practice would receive additional income if the dog needed additional care for emergencies, a therapeutic diet, long-term drugs, ear infections, spay/neuter, illness or chronic conditions. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics, 37% of households own dogs while 30% own cats. (*2) Dog owners average 1.6 dogs while cat owners have 2.1. You can estimate the number of pet owning households and number of pets in your community with the AVMA’s pet ownership calculator.

This receptionist’s failure to welcome a new client may have resulted in lost medical care for multiple pets. Practice owners and managers need to invest in telephone training so receptionists can confidently respond to price shoppers, no matter how busy the day gets. Here’s how to handle shopper calls during peak call volume times:

1. Ask if the caller can hold.

Price shoppers often call before or after work, during lunch breaks and on Saturdays—so you will always be busy when potential new clients contact your hospital. Never offer to call the price shopper later. Even if you return the call within 10 minutes, she will call another clinic. Say, “Are you able to hold for a moment? We’d love to share information on what your new puppy will need.”

2. Cross-train your entire team.

If the front desk is flooded with a tsunami of calls, they need to reach out to managers, technicians and assistants who can pitch in for 5 to 10 minutes until the wave of calls passes.

Designate a staff member as a floater who can work at the front desk as well as assist in exam rooms. Because the floater is cross-trained, she can float between the areas of the hospital where demand is the greatest. For example, the floater might help manage calls when one receptionist takes her lunch break and then assist with evening surgical and dental discharges when patient pickup volume is high.

Cross-train receptionists, technicians and managers on how to convert phone shoppers into new clients and provide sample scripts and scenarios.

3. Install a wireless doorbell for front-desk staff to holler, “HELP!”

Animal Hospital of Richboro in Richboro, Penn., has a wireless doorbell at the front desk with a chime in the treatment area. When receptionists get a tsunami of calls, they ring the doorbell to alert technicians that they need an extra set of hands. Having an assistant or technician pitch in for five or 10 minutes lets clients experience prompt service and relives stress on the front-desk team. Buy wireless doorbells from hardware or home-improvement stores for $20 to $60.

To sustain a growing practice, a small animal hospital needs 25 new clients per full-time-equivalent veterinarian each month. (*3) A two-doctor practice should target 50 new clients per month or 600 annually. The practice manager should monitor new client numbers monthly to identify trends.

If your hospital is not achieving the benchmark of 25 new clients per doctor per month, you need to provide phone-shopper training and evaluate marketing programs. Track the source of new clients in your practice-management software so you know which marketing programs are delivering results. If most of your new clients are coming from Internet searches, invest more dollars in search engine optimization to get top Google rankings as well as positive online reviews.

When interested pet owners contact your hospital, you need well-trained employees who can respond with friendly attitudes and book more new client exams. Price shoppers are not checking prices—they are looking for long-term relationships. Shoppers are seeking a veterinarian who they can trust whether their pets need preventive care, are sick or require emergency care. Pet owners stay with a veterinary hospital an average of five years, according to the Well-Managed Practice Study from WTA Veterinary Consultants. (*4)

Look beyond one price shopper call. What will you do to welcome more new clients who will seek at least five years or perhaps a lifetime of care from your practice?

References:

*1 – AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 10th edition, AAHA Press 2018:39,47,48,99.

*2 – U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. Available at www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx. Accessed March 27, 2019.

*3 – Glassman, G. Q&A: When to add an associate to your team. Veterinary Economics: March 2010. Available at http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com/vetec/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=660456. Accessed March 27, 2019.

*4 – Tumblin, D. Client visitation and retention. Veterinary Economics: March 2006. Available at: http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com/client-visitation-and-retention. Accessed March 27, 2019.

 

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