720-344-2347
Is remote work the secret to keep staff?

Is remote work the secret to keep staff?

Is remote work the secret to keep staff?

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

When a rockstar client service representative moved out of state, a Montana practice had the employee work remotely to answer phones, enter inventory, and manage equine travel health certificates. A New York hospital manager works from home one day a week to review financials, set doctor and staff schedules, and prepare performance reviews.

Remote work is a dominant trend in 2023, with 13 percent of full-time employees working from home and 28 percent blending a hybrid model of home and in-office work.[1]

While veterinarians, technicians, and assistants need to deliver onsite patient care, hospital managers and client service representatives (CSRs) can do all or part of their work remotely. CSRs can answer phones, manage clinic emails and texts, schedule appointments, and call clients about overdue services and prescriptions. Managers can plan budgets, order inventory, create marketing initiatives, conduct virtual hiring interviews, write performance reviews, and complete tasks that benefit from focused, uninterrupted work. Remote workers can give your practice multiple advantages.

attract and keep top talent.

Millennials are the largest generation of the veterinary workforce, with women accounting for 78 percent.[2] Remote work aligns with millennials’ affinity for flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance.

“Everyone has wants, needs, and reasons to work from home. For me, it was the ability to stay home with my young children when the uncertainty of the pandemic was still lingering, and I could remain in my career field. The stars truly aligned,” explains Aimee Brulatour, who works from home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., as practice manager of HomeVets, a mobile, in-home veterinary service in Baltimore, Md.

Brulatour values the flexibility, level of privacy you do not get in a clinic setting, as well as the savings on gas and commute time.

A recent study found 82 percent of respondents are trying to hire at least one employee and are experiencing difficulties filling jobs at their practices.[3] Candidates now consider work-life balance and flexibility as the most important factors when evaluating job offers, with 81 percent saying they would be more loyal if they hadflexible work options.[4] Hybrid and fully remote jobs may help hospitals recruit and retain employees in competitive job markets.

When hiring a remote CSR, Brulatour sought candidates who are well-spoken because their voices are the face of the practice. “Veterinary experience is a must for us since training can have its challenges,” she says. “We use Google Meets for practice information management software training.”

HomeVets started completely decentralized and mobile in 2020 but recently bought a brick-and-mortar practice from two retiring doctors. Rebranded as HomeVets at Patapsco Valley in Ellicott City, Md., the practice is being remodeled and will reopen in October. The practice has four veterinarians and will give mobile HomeVets a facility to perform surgeries. Jordan Klaff, RVT, works as a mobile technician and remote CSR for HomeVets. Klaff manages calls for the mobile and brick-and-mortar practices, where an auto attendant menu routes calls to the remote CSR for scheduling and other inquires or to onsite staff if checking on hospitalized patients.

increase productivity.

When working fully remote, 35 percent of employees feel more productive.[1] They have fewer in-person distractions, the ability to design their own work environments, and reduced commute time.

“An employee who isn’t client-facing can be far more productive, have a better sense of well-being both personally and professionally, and have increased morale and retention when they are able to work outside of the clinic,” says Brulatour. “Although you are not onsite, you are more available to your team. Technology allows for document sharing and group edits, app communication, and virtual meetings. I can work late and still get dinner ready for my family or take an hour lunch and play outside.”

Working 100 percent remote, Brulatour’s hospital manager duties include staff schedules, payroll, benefits, budget and expenditure planning, social media and marketing, recruiting, staff training and meetings, performance reviews, biannual price audits, employee handbook, standard operating procedures, and employee events.

“If I have my laptop and phone, I can work from anywhere,” says Brulatour. “I don’t even need a printer! I use Google apps such as Sheets, Docs, Forms, and Calendar.”

reduce costs and reallocate space.

The average real estate savings with full-time teleworkers is $10,000 per employee per year.[5] With a hybrid model, a practice that has four CSRs could have two work onsite and two offsite. Remodel your lobby, converting a large front desk into a smaller workstation and repurposing the space for one or more exam rooms. The annual average revenue per exam room is $342,312 or $361 per square foot, according to AAHA’s Financial Productivity Pulsepoints.[6] In larger practices with three or more full-time veterinarians, the average revenue per square foot for exam rooms increases to $514.

A manager with a hybrid work schedule could work from home four days a week and one day onsite, sharing workspace in doctors’ offices when it is an associate veterinarian’s day off. The manager’s office could be repurposed as a revenue-generating exam room. A shared workspace also reduces computer and phone expenses.

embrace technology tools.

When Kaitlyn McMorran moved from California to Arkansas, she wanted to continue her job as hospital manager of Jeronimo Pet Clinic in Mission Viejo, Calif. She worked remotely for more than a year. McMorran used Splashtop for remote access to the practice-management software and RingCentral, a cloud-based phone and fax app that works on a desktop computer and mobile phone. Remote work let McMorran focus on computerizing the practice after Dr. Barbara Weintraub bought it from a retiring doctor. McMorran helped convert paper charts into electronic medical records, create a website and social media presence, enter financial records in accounting software, set up a client communication app, and add an online pharmacy.

“I wrote a job description for the remote practice manager position and talked with Dr. Weintraub about it,” she says. McMorran traveled to the practice several times during the year for onsite meetings.

Now McMorran has moved backed to California and has a hybrid schedule, mostly working onsite but does a workday from home as needed. While working onsite at Jeronimo Pet Clinic, she serves as a veterinary assistant and hospital manager. McMorran also is attending school to become a registered technician. She values the job flexibility and plans to do more remote work during her maternity leave in December.

Weekly virtual meetings help Brulatour collaborate with HomeVet owners Drs. Shawn Budge and Brittany Wolfe. Each year, she travels to Maryland to spend a week working with the HomeVets team and recently attended the VMX conference with its doctors. Brulatour also created a private Facebook group called Mobile In-Home Veterinary Network where more than 200 remote veterinary staff exchange resources.

“Embrace the future and all that technology has to offer,” Brulatour advises. “Start slow. Work on a hybrid model first and figure it out one step at a time. Never stop growing.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE? 

Enroll your team in the online course: Survival Tips When You’re Short-Staffed.

About the Author: Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in a specialty and emergency practice. Visit YouTube.com/csvets and Csvets.com for more.

References:

1. Haan K. Remote Work Statistics and Trends in 2023. Forbes Advisor. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/remote-work-statistics/#:~:text=As%20of%202023%2C%2012.7%25%20of,to%20a%20hybrid%20work%20model. Accessed July 24, 2023.

2. Practice Inefficiencies Compound Veterinary Stress. JAVMA News. Available at: https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2021-12-01/practice-inefficiencies-compound-veterinary-stress. Accessed July 24, 2023.

3. Groundbreaking IDEXX Study Reveals Opportunities to Increase Veterinary Practice Productivity. PR Newswire. Available at: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/groundbreaking-idexx-study-reveals-opportunities-to-increase-veterinary-practice-productivity-301750165.html. Accessed July 24, 2023.

4. Managing Flexible Work Arrangements. Available at: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managingflexibleworkarrangements.aspx#:~:text=Many%20U.S.%20workers%20now%20consider,a%202020%20survey%20by%20FlexJobs. Accessed July 24, 2023.

5. Hussain A. 4 Reasons Why a Remote Workforce Is Better for Business. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/amarhussaineurope/2019/03/29/4-reasons-why-a-remote-workforce-is-better-for-business/?sh=48a8fbe41a64. Accessed July 24, 2023.

6. Hawn R. Hospital Considerations: Expand or Build New? Available at: https://www.mwiah.com/our-insights/hospital-considerations. Accessed July 24, 2023.

 

5 Ways to Improve Email Reminders

5 Ways to Improve Email Reminders

5 Ways to Improve Email Reminders

WITHOUT A MARKETING STRATEGY, YOUR EMAILS MAY BE UNDERPERFORMING.

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians
 
Your hospital relies on email reminders as a highly effective and inexpensive tool to reach thousands of clients. Email benchmarks for healthcare services show average open rates of 24% and click-to-open rates of 13%.[1] The click-to-open rate indicates how effective the email message, design, and content performed, as well as whether the message caused the client to act.[2]The click-to-open rate is the number of clicks out of the number of opens (instead of the number of delivered emails). If 100 clients opened your email and 13 clicked through to book appointments, your click-to-open rate is 13%.
 
Email can be a powerful communication tool that ensures timely patient care and improves hospital revenue. Here are best practices to make your email reminders successful:
 

1. use a compelling subject line and call to action.

Because 62% of emails are opened on mobile devices, you need a short and captivating subject line.[3] To fit the subject line on a mobile device, you have 30 to 40 characters. Emoji can save space and increase open rates by 56%.[4] Find emoji on GetEmoji.com, CopyPasteCharacter.com, MegaEmoji.com, and fSymbols.com.

Use a data field to put the pet’s name in the subject line. Personalization will make your reminders stand out in clients’ inboxes.

Your call to action should tell clients what to do next. Give them a deadline to respond. This is not a skim and delete email.

As clients progress through your email series, increase the urgency of messages if they have not booked appointments. Here are email subject lines with the three strategies of personalization, emoji, and call to action:

  • Checkup reminder 1: <Pet name> needs a checkup by <date> 🐾 Book Now
  • Checkup reminder 2: Don’t miss <pet name>’s next checkup 🩺 Book Now
  • Checkup reminder 3: <Pet name> is overdue for a checkup ❤️ Book Immediately

2. keep email messages short.

Email messages between 50 and 125 words have the best response rates of 50% or higher.[5] People are skimming and scrolling, often not reading.

Use bullets or numbered lists to improve readability. Include hyperlinks to your online booking webpage, download your app with scheduling tool, and phone number. Hyperlinks let clients click and act. Research shows 70% of consumers prefer to schedule appointments by text or app.[6] You’ll reduce incoming phone calls, and clients can book 24/7. Most of the appointment and refill requests in the VitusVet app are between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. with 5 a.m. as the busiest time.[7]

3. use a call to action button.

A button will stand out to email skimmers who may overlook a text hyperlink. The button should be larger than the text to be eye-catching. Color will make the button stand out from text. A big button can be easier to click on a mobile device. Ask your practice-management software or third-party reminder service to create customized buttons that work across all devices.

4. promote preventive care plans and financial solutions.

If you offer preventive care plans, include a brief description with a link that lets clients learn more such as “View our preventive care plans with monthly payments <link>. We can answer questions during your pet’s exam, or you may enroll online now.” 

Let clients know you can help with payment options for veterinary care. More than half of pet owners would use a credit card dedicated to financing care for their pets, according to the Synchrony Lifetime of Care study.[8] Dog owners can spend $534 to $1,285 annually on medications, parasite control, vaccinations, checkups, and dental care. Cat owners can spend $374 to $965 for yearly health expenses. If you offer third-party financing, include a one-liner such as “Learn about financing options through <link to provider>.”

5. use benefit statements to encourage foward booking.

Many practices have full schedules several weeks in advance. Traditionally, hospitals have sent checkup reminders 30 days ahead. If you are booking three weeks out and send reminders 30 days ahead, you only have one week of appointments available. With current appointment demands, send reminders 60 days ahead because you will have more openings. Your hospital may not have open appointments three weeks from today, but you will have openings eight weeks out. In May, send reminders for patients who will be due in July.

See the graphic at the top of this blog for a sample email with these effective marketing strategies.

Sending effective reminders is the first step in getting clients to schedule. Continue your communication with a series of confirmations that set expectations and prevent no-shows. 

Customize your series of scheduling and medication refill reminders to drive future business. Get how-to instructions with text and email templates in my free eBook on Everything You Need to Know About Reminders at https://csvets.com/reminders/.

Monitor your response rates monthly and test the wording and design of messages to identify which strategies get the best results.

About the Author: Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in a specialty and emergency practice. Visit YouTube.com/csvets and Csvets.com for more.

References:

[1] Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2022: By Industry and Day. Campaign Monitor. Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/email-marketing-benchmarks/. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[2] Email Marketing Terms. Campaign Monitor. Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/glossary/click-to-open-rate-ctor/. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[3] Infographic: The Ultimate Mobile Email Open Statistics. EasySendy. Available at: https://easysendy.com/blog/mobile-email-open-statistics/. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[4] The Real Scoop on Email Emoji in Subject Lines. Campaign Monitor. Available at: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/the-real-scoop-on-email-emoji-in-subject-lines/. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[5] Renahan M. The Ideal Length of a Sales Email, Based on 40 Million Emails. HubSpot. Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/ideal-length-sales-email. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[6] Park A. 70% of consumers prefer to schedule appointments via text: 5 tips for safe, effective patient texting. Available at: https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/70-of-consumers-prefer-to-schedule-appointments-via-text-5-tips-for-safe-effective-patient-texting.html?oly_enc_id=3257D1848212C3H. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[7] Olcott M. Postcard Reminders: 3 Reasons You’re Kidding Yourself. Available at: https://vitusvet.com/blog/postcard-reminders-3-reasons-youre-kidding-yourself/. Accessed March 1, 2023.

[8] Pet Lifetime of Care Study, August 2021. Synchrony. Available at: http://petlifetimeofcare.com/#page=1. Accessed March 1, 2023.

 

The Death of Dental Month Discounts

The Death of Dental Month Discounts

Could this be the year that dental discounts die?

When National Pet Dental Health Month began in February two decades ago, its goal was to educate pet owners and fill seasonal downturns for practices. Deliberate discounts have mutated into marketing monsters for hospitals. Many practices have jampacked dental schedules from January to March to accommodate the demand.

With current staff shortages and overloaded schedules, many hospital managers and owners are ditching the 10% to 20% price cut. Others may quit discounting because dental procedures are forward booked two to three months out.

Let us end dental month discounts and make treatment part of everyday exam conversations. Use these educational approaches to get clients to accept preventive dentistry year-round:

ditch the term “dental.”

This catchall word does not accurately define a particular procedure, according to the 2019 American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats (1). Teams should use specific terminology such as complete oral health assessment, orthodontics, periodontal surgery, and advanced oral surgery. AAHA’s guidelines include a chart of dental term definitions such as: “Oral surgery is the practical manipulation and incising of epithelium of hard and soft tissue for the purpose of improving or restoring oral health and comfort.”

focus on the benefits of treatment.

Jason Coe, DVM, PhD, a professor at University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College and an expert in veterinary clinical communication, suggests considering clients’ perspectives (2). Pet owners want to know:

  • What treatment options are available along with the cost?
  • What will my pet experience based on the treatment we choose?
  • What is the prognosis or outlook?
  • If I accept treatment, what will be the outcome for my pet’s health?

avoid the wiggle word of “recommend.”

Clients may assume they can wait because the procedure is just a recommendation and is not urgent nor medically necessary. Instead, use the action word of “need.”

USE photos to increase client understanding.

Research shows 65% of people are visual learners (2). They understand best when shown an image, model, or graphic demonstrating the problem or treatment. Use photos two ways:

1) Document and share your diagnosis. Use a smartphone to take dental photos that help clients see problem areas. Markup, enlarge, and crop images to show clients what you see. Save images in patients’ electronic medical records to visually document the diagnosis and share photos with clients by text or email.

2) Explain procedures with slideshows. Take photos of your team performing preanesthetic testing, taking dental radiographs, using surgical monitoring equipment, and other steps of procedures. Build a PowerPoint presentation branded with your logo. Write captions for each photo. Export the presentation as a slideshow to play on exam room computers or digital photo frames. Share the slideshow on your website and social media, too.

provide treatment plans on the day of diagnosis.

After hearing diagnoses, pet owners want to know their next steps. Give clients information to help them decide and schedule today. A treatment plan serves four purposes:

  1. Gives you legal permission to treat
  2. Lists services and products in the procedure
  3. Shares expected cost of care
  4. States payment policies

Treatment plans will have a high and low range. Do not call it an “estimate” or you risk making the conversation “all about the money.”

address cost head-on.

For one out of four pet owners, an unexpected expense of $250 or less is a financial issue (3). The average dental case is $499.64, including preanesthetic exam, CBC with differential, chemistry panel with eight chemistries, dental radiographs, preoperative pain medication, 30 minutes of anesthesia, IV catheter and placement, IV fluids, dental scaling and polishing, subgingival curettage, fluoride application, electronic monitoring, post-procedure pain medication, post-procedure injectable antibiotics, hospitalization, and one-week supply of antibiotics (4).

Say, “We can help you with financing options to pay for veterinary care,” advises the eBook, Language That Works: Changing the Way We Talk About Veterinary Care, from the American Veterinary Medical Association (5).

Update your hospital’s treatment plan templates with links where clients can learn about third-party financing. The last line item on a treatment plan is: “Learn about financing options at <link>.” Embedding the description in templates will ensure financial solutions are consistently communicated to clients. Circle or highlight the link so clients know where to learn more. In addition to treatment plans, share financing links in email and text confirmations, QR codes, website banners and buttons, and social media posts.

set dental fees by grade to incentivize early treatment.

Increase prices 25% or more between each grade. A Grade 1 dental procedure might include one 30-minute unit of anesthesia while a Grade 2 procedure would have 1.5 units or 45 minutes. Using the average of $500 for a 30-minute Grade 1 dental procedure from AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, from Grades 1 to 4, the cost of care nearly doubles (see chart). Reward the behavior you want, which is early treatment. Extractions would be additional based on the number and difficulty of oral surgery.

Dental treatment         Average fee

Grade 1                       $500

Grade 2                       $625

Grade 3                       $781

Grade 4                       $976

ask for a commitment to treat.

Offer the veterinarian’s next two procedure days. Book the dental treatment with the same doctor who diagnosed the condition because he or she will be familiar with the case and enjoy production pay. Scheduling with the same doctor also increases clients’ confidence.

Use the yes-or-yes technique to lead clients to book now: “Dr. <Name> diagnosed <pet name> with Grade 3 dental disease. We can perform the procedure on <date 1> or <date 2>. Which do you prefer?”

Let’s stop cramming too many procedures into one month, running our technicians ragged, and disappointing clients who can’t get the discount when patient capacity overflows. Celebrate the end of discounts during National Pet Dental Health Month like the death of the Yellow Pages!

WANT TO LEARN MORE? 

References:

1 –  Bellows J,  Berg L, Dennis S, Harvey R, Lobprise L, Snyder C, Stone A, and Van de Wetering. 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Available at: https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/dental/aaha_dental_guidelines.pdf. Accessed Dec. 19, 2022.

2 – Klingbord J. Exam Room Communication for Veterinarians. AAHA Press, 2011:27,29,160-162,34-35.

3 – Pet Lifetime of Care Study, August 2021:13. Synchrony. Available at: http://petlifetimeofcare.com/#page=1. Accessed Dec. 19, 2022.

4 – AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 11th edition, AAHA Press, 2021;120.

5 – Language That Works: Changing the Way We Talk About Veterinary

Care, American Veterinary Medical Association. September 2021:22. Available at: https://www.avma.org/blog/new-ebook-reveals-best-language-use-clients. Accessed Nov. 29, 2022.

Enroll Now Latest Webinar Training

create efficient dental schedules

create efficient dental schedules

create efficient dental schedules

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

A distraught technician explained that her hospital schedules 14 dental procedures per day, and she’s worried about her health. After four procedures in a row, her arm goes numb. The technician sought advice from conference speaker Mary L. Berg, BS, LATG, RVT, VTS (Dentistry) of Beyond the Crown Veterinary Education in Lawrence, Kan., and author of Dental Radiographs Made Easy and Companion Animal Dentistry for Veterinary Technicians.

Avoid overcrowding dental schedules, which can put patient and technician health at risk. “If a practice wants to embrace dentistry, they can’t schedule eight or more per day because they will do poor procedures,” advises Berg. “Take time to look for disease, take radiographs, and address problems.”

Teams can be more efficient with smart scheduling and setting clients’ expectations. Here’s expert advice:

budget enough time

Rushing to complete procedures can leave some disease untreated, Berg warns. The 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats provide a 12-step protocol for oral health assessment, dental cleaning, and periodontal therapy.

Create scheduling guidelines for client service representatives (CSRs) and other employees who book procedures. Berg shares estimated procedure times based on the stage of periodontal disease. Procedure times are “table time” from induction to the start of recovery and include taking radiographs and performing some extractions. Patient preparation and recovery time are additional. Multiple and/or difficult extractions also will increase times.
  • Stage 1 procedure: 1 hour
  • Stage 2 procedure: 1 to 1 ½ hours
  • Stage 3 procedure: 2 to 2 ½ hours
  • Stage 4 procedure: 3 hours

Let’s say the dental team will perform procedures from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for four hours of procedure time. The team could do four Stage 1 procedures, two Stage 2 procedures, or one Stage 1 and one Stage 4 procedure. Berg advises limiting to two Stage 3 or 4 procedures per day.

If the procedure will require more than three hours, consider staging care, Berg suggests. The first procedure is a dental cleaning while the second is oral surgery about a week later. Debra Bohnke, DVM and medical director of Cimarron Animal Hospital in Tucson, Ariz., explains in her blog that staging dental treatments also spreads out expenses for clients.

“Seventy-five percent of dogs and cats have more dental disease than can be detected when pets are wake because they don’t let anyone do a thorough 360-degree tooth-by-tooth examination while they are awake,” Dr. Bohnke writes. During the first procedure, Dr. Bohnke calls the client to explain any additional treatments and extractions. She discusses doing everything at once or delaying care along with an appropriate timeline based on the severity of disease. If staged care is performed within the time specified, Cimarron Animal Hospital offers an $85 credit toward the second anesthesia.

ASSIGN A DENTAL TEAM

Use two to three technicians and assistants based on your staffing levels, Berg advises. An anesthesia technician does hands-on patient monitoring and watches electronic monitoring equipment. “Don’t rely on electronic monitors only,” Berg warns. Periodically use a stethoscope as a doublecheck. The second teammate is a dental technician who completes an oral examination, takes full mouth dental radiographs, and performs the procedure. An optional third member is a veterinary assistant who available to assist the dental technician with charting and radiographs.

SET THE ORDER OF PROCEDURES FOR DOCTOR AVAILABILITY

Don’t schedule an orthopedic surgery at the same time as a Stage 4 dental procedure, which will require the doctor’s time simultaneously. Veterinarians will perform most oral surgeries. Consult your state board of veterinary medicine on which duties technicians and veterinary assistants may or may not perform, including extractions.

A smart scheduling approach is to have the doctor performing a spay, neuter, or shorter surgery while the dental team is doing Stage 3 and 4 procedures.
 

SET clients’ expectations when booking procedures

Clients at VCA Sheridan Animal Hospital & Veterinary Specialists of Western New York in Buffalo, N.Y., get an admission process sheet upon scheduling. Instructions explain what to do or not do 10 days before the pet’s procedure, the day before, what to bring, and what to expect on procedure day. Download the form.

The admission process sheet tells clients they will get preadmission calls the day prior, which will last 10 minutes. Hospital Manager Holly Monroe says a triage technician calls clients with CSRs as backup. Questions are prepopulated in electronic medical records based on the type of procedure and patient history. All clients are asked if pets have taken any medication within 24 hours, including NSAIDs, fish oil, or aspirin; any issues to be aware of before procedures; who will bring the pet; confirm vaccines are up to date; and discuss any additional services. A client with a diabetic pet will be asked about the brand of insulin, how much is given, when the last dose was administered, when the pet will eat, and when the next insulin dose will be due. Clients receive individual treatment plans and anesthetic consents by email or through the MyVCA App, which allows digital signatures.


The admission process sheet and preadmission calls have cut surgical and dental check-in times in half. “This has helped the admission process in so many ways,” says Monroe. “We can admit six to seven clients smoothly and quickly. Medical records are more thorough. Every staff member is asking consistent questions. We have fewer no-shows. It’s been a huge deal for us. The more communication you have with your clients, the better.”

Clients also pay 75% of the treatment plan upon booking. Watch my video on “Stop Saying Deposit! Say This.”

HAVE PREOPERATIVE APPOINTMENTS

Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness & Laser Surgery Center in Selden, N.Y. created preoperative appointments to avoid surprises on surgery days. “Our veterinarian was tired of not knowing what type of surgery he was walking into that day,” explains Practice Manager Nicole Carucci-Winkler, LVT. New clients would call, schedule surgery, and drop off patients. “We’d have no idea who these people were, who patients were, and what, if any, contraindications to surgery there might be,” says Carucci-Winkler. “A canine neuter could be a 5-pound Yorkie with a portal-systemic liver shunt. You want to know about the shunt prior to surgery, not the morning of surgery. No human doctor would do surgery on a patient without a preoperative appointment. Why should a veterinarian be required to?”


Preoperative appointments are with a veterinarian and licensed veterinary technician (LVT). Before the preoperative appointment, the LVT contacts the referring or previous veterinarian for medical records, reviews and audits patient history, checks vaccination status, and writes a case summary for the veterinarian. The doctor examines the patient to establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR), which is required by state law and the AVMA.

“Introducing the LVT as part of the surgical team helps build clients’ trust and educates the public about who an LVT is and the importance of his or her role in veterinary medicine,” Carucci-Winkler says.

During the preoperative appointment 10 to 14 days before the procedure, the doctor and technician explain the procedure, fees, third-party financing, and expected outcomes along with possible complications and post-operative care. The technician collects blood and urine samples to send to its reference lab.

You don’t want abnormal results the morning of the procedure such as the patient with a portal-systemic shunt, Carucci-Winkler explains. “You don’t want to call the client while she’s at work or otherwise occupied and tell her you’re cancelling surgery because blood work indicates the patient needs additional diagnostics before you would put it under anesthesia,” she says.

Preoperative appointments let the team choose appropriate dates and times based on the type of procedure. Clients sign treatment plans and anesthetic consents in advance. When patients are admitted for procedures, clients just sign to acknowledge they are admitting the patient and confirm contact information for today.

Talk with your team about ways to streamline admissions, budget procedure time, and set clear expectations for clients. You and your clients deserve smooth, efficient check-ins.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? 


About the Author:
 
Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in a specialty and emergency practice. Visit YouTube.com/csvets and Csvets.com for more.

get 100+ courses

Stop Leaving Voicemails For Clients

Stop Leaving Voicemails For Clients

Stop Leaving Voicemails For Clients

 By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

You call a client about her cat’s lab results and leave a detailed voicemail, explaining that you need to discuss the diagnosis and treatment. After two days with no response, you leave a second voicemail. 

Even if clients have your hospital’s phone number saved in their contacts, research shows 67 percent don’t listen to voicemails.[1] I understand why. Clients can’t skim voicemails. They must listen to the entire message, call back, wait on hold, and leave a message because the veterinarian isn’t available. 

Text is a better choice. Text dialogue can happen asynchronously. Both parties don’t have to be on their phones at the same time. Veterinarians and clients can reply when they’re available. Up to 80 percent of callers choose texting over voicemail. Millennials are the largest pet-owning segment and 60 percent prefer to communicate with businesses via text.[2],[3] 

Let’s end your frustration with unreturned calls and phone tag. Turn your callbacks into “textbacks.” Texts rarely go unread or unanswered. Ditch the 10-minute task of calling and leaving a voicemail. Replace it with a 2-minute text. Create templates in your texting platform for these common responses:

TEXT AFTER DISCHARGE

After each hospitalized patient is discharged from surgery, dentistry, or treatment for an illness, your medical team follows up with clients. Set expectations for a textback during the discharge appointment. 

Say this: “You will get a text/app message from us tomorrow to confirm that <pet name> is eating, drinking, and taking medications. If you have questions or concerns, reply to the text, or call us at 555-555-5555.” 

The next day, text this: We are checking on <pet name> after surgery yesterday. Is <pet name> eating, drinking, and taking medications? Reply Y or N. Reply with questions. 

If the client replies “Y” for yes, document the communication in the electronic medical record and reply to thank the client. If a client replies “N” for no, call to discuss the pet’s symptoms and next steps. The client’s answers may prompt an appointment for a progress exam or telemedicine consult. 

Create a series of text templates when patients require multiple follow-up messages. Text campaigns should notify, educate, support, and steer pet owners. In your texting platform, link the series to trigger in sequential order. 

Let’s say you perform a dental treatment with several extractions. Send this series of texts after the dental discharge appointment:

  • 1 day later: We are checking on <pet name> after oral surgery yesterday. Feed a soft food, no hard treats or chews, and refrain from brushing teeth for X days. Is <pet name> eating, drinking, and taking medications? Reply Y or N. Reply with questions.
  • 4 days later: <Pet name> may eat regular food now. No hard treats or chews for X days after oral surgery. Reply with questions.
  • 7 days later: You may gently brush <pet name>’s teeth with pet toothpaste and a soft toothbrush now. Click here <link> to watch our video on how to brush your pet’s teeth. Reply with questions.
  • 14 days later or based on next appointment date: <Pet name> has a progress exam to check on healing from oral surgery on <date, time>. Reply C to confirm or RS to reschedule. 

TEXT AFTER SICK OUTPATIENT EXAMS

Let’s say you saw an urgent care patient for loose and watery stools. You determine the gastrointestinal upset was due to high-fat table scraps at the family barbeque, and radiographs confirm no bones were ingested. You prescribe medication and instruct the client to feed a bland diet for several days. The outpatient technician who assisted the veterinarian with the exam will be responsible for follow-up communication. 

Text this: We are checking to see if <pet name> is feeling better. Feed a bland diet for X days. Is <pet name> having normal stools and a good appetite? Reply Y or N. Reply with questions. 

The client already has a relationship with this technician, who is familiar with details of the case. If the health concern has not resolved, schedule a progress exam.

TEXT PREVENTIVE LAB RESULTS

Share lab results for intestinal parasite screens that you send to your reference lab. I provided consulting and onsite training for a 10-doctor hospital where the medical team told clients “No news is good news” for intestinal parasite test results. Being busy isn’t a good excuse and may harm compliance for preventive diagnostics. Pet owners are paying to learn results. Clients will be more likely to accept screening in the future if they understand today’s results. 

Text clients about negative results and reinforce timely dosing of preventatives. Call clients about positive results so you may discuss treatment and medication. 

Text this: <Pet name>’s intestinal parasite screen was negative with no egg cells or parasites seen. Give <brand> each month for heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention. Click here to view lab results <link to patient portal on your website>. Reply with questions.

TEXT AS BACKUP TO VOICEMAILS

A client calls and tells your client service representative, “Someone from your hospital just called me. What do you need?” While you might find the answer in the electronic medical record, the staff member may not be available. 

Whenever you leave a voicemail, send a backup text to lead the client to listen and promptly call back. Your text should include the best time to return the call based on the staff member’s availability. 

Text this: “Dr. <Name> left you a voicemail about <pet name>’s lab test. Please listen, and then call 555-555-5555 to discuss the diagnosis and treatment. Dr. <Name> will be available between 2:00 and 2:20 p.m.” 

Veterinarians need administrative time blocked in their schedules to review lab results, update medical records, approve prescriptions, and call/text/email clients and vendors. Learn how to add doctor-client communication blocks so veterinarians can batch tasks. Read my blog on Overwhelmed With Callbacks and Emails?

Clients will get cranky if they leave multiple messages without returned calls. Watch my 2-minute video on  “I need to talk to the doctor now!” Find out what to say when a client demands to talk with the veterinarian, but he isn’t available.

Have a doctor and technician list the top callback scenarios at your hospital. Identify which callbacks could be converted to textbacks, which will improve your team’s productivity and increase response rates from clients. Write templates for your texting platform to save time and have consistent messaging from your hospital.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Enroll your team in the 1-hour course: Technology Tools Every Practice Needs.

About the Author: Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in a specialty and emergency practice. Visit YouTube.com/csvets and Csvets.com for more.

References:

[1] 22 Business Phone Statistics. Numa. Available at: https://www.numa.com/blog/22-business-phone-statistics. Accessed Aug. 11, 2022.

[2] Share of Pet Ownership in the United States in 2021-2022 by Generation. Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1130651/pet-ownership-by-generation-us/. Accessed Aug. 11, 2022.

[3] Svyrydenko A. Why Millennials Love Texting. TextMagic. Available at: https://www.textmagic.com/blog/why-millenials-love-texting-infographic/. Accessed Aug. 11, 2022.

 

Get 100+ courses

Overwhelmed With Callbacks, Texts, and Emails?

Overwhelmed With Callbacks, Texts, and Emails?

Overwhelmed With Callbacks, Texts, and Emails?

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, President, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

A client called three times today, following up on the message she left for a doctor this morning. Busy with back-to-back exams and two emergencies, the veterinarian hasn’t returned the call. Worse yet, the client service representative (CSR) spent 20 minutes taking three extra messages and making excuses for the doctor.

Job stressed has jumped to 80% as doctors deal with excessive caseloads and staff shortages.[1] Veterinarians work through lunch, stay after hours, and go home exhausted. The cycle will start over again tomorrow. One in six veterinarians has considered suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[2]

The reality: Veterinarians need administrative time blocked in their schedules to review lab results, update medical records, approve prescriptions, and call/text/email clients and vendors. Without dedicated time for administrative tasks, veterinarians risk job burnout and mental health.

The solution: Pre-block doctor-client communication slots in daily schedules just as you do appointments. Choose from two options: 1) Three 20-minute doctor-client communication blocks at mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and the second to last appointment of the day such as 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:00 p.m., or 2) Six 10-minute doctor-client communication blocks every 90 minutes such as 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Both options allocate 60 minutes per day for doctors to complete administrative tasks.

Here are tips to help doctors maximize the payoff of doctor-client communication blocks:

HAVE CSRS SCREEN DOCTORS’ CALLS.

Explain, “The doctor is currently seeing patients in appointments/performing surgery. What is your specific question for the doctor? A technician may be able to help you now.” The caller says she can’t get her cat to swallow a pill. Because a technician can give medication administration instructions, the CSR will connect the caller to a technician rather than take a message for the veterinarian.

SET EXPECTATIONS FOR WHEN CALLS WILL BE RETURNED.

Let’s say the client leaves a message at 9 a.m. in reply to the doctor’s voicemail about her pet’s lab results. The CSR will explain, “Dr. <Name> is seeing patient appointments now and needs to speak with you. The doctor will be available at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to return calls. What is the best number to reach you during those times, and can the doctor also text you at that number?” You’ll avoid a barrage of repeat messages from the same client. 

If the caller doesn’t answer when the veterinarian returns her call, he can leave a detailed voicemail about the lab results. Send a text as backup communication. Text this: Dr. <Name> left you a voicemail about <pet name>’s lab results. The doctor can speak with you at 2:30 p.m. Please reply C to confirm you are available or RS to reschedule another call time.

ASK TECHNICIANS TO HELP WITH RESPONSES.

The doctor will review texts, emails, and voicemails and choose whether he or a technician should respond. This can improve response times. A veterinarian will call a client to discuss abnormal lab results and his diagnosis of kidney disease, while a technician will return a call about a positive intestinal parasite screen and treatment. 

The technician will say, “I am <technician name>. Dr. <Name> asked me to call you about your dog’s intestinal parasite screen. Your dog is positive for hookworms. Dr. <Name> has prescribed oral medication for two to three weeks of treatment, which you can pick up today before 6 p.m. We will review medication instructions with you when you arrive. Because the dog’s environment can be infested with hookworm eggs and larvae, you need to remove any stool from your yard promptly.[3] Use gloves to put feces in plastic bags and discard in your trash. You will want to remove feces from your yard daily and have your pet on monthly preventatives. What questions can I answer about Dr. <Name>’s diagnosis?” Repeating the doctor’s name will instill trust. Invite questions with the phrase of “What questions can I answer…?” rather than the close-ended question of, “Do you have any questions?”

FUNNEL EMAILS TO SPECIFIC DEPARTMENTS.

Rather than have every email dump into the general hospital inbox, set up emails that get to the right person the first time. Create email accounts such as pharmacy@vethospital.com and records@vethospital.com. Technicians and assistants will manage refill requests at pharmacy@vethospital.com, while CSRs will handle incoming and outgoing medical record requests at records@vethospital.com.

USE FOLDERS TO MOVE THE PROCESS FORWARD.

When a refill request lands in the pharmacy@vethospital.com inbox, the technician will confirm the pet has had an exam within 12 months and is up to date on any drug-monitoring tests. The technician moves the request to a “Ready for doctor approval” folder, which the veterinarian can access. Once the doctor okays the refill, he updates the medical record and moves the message to the “Approved to refill” folder. The technician fills the medication, enters the charge, texts pickup instructions to the client, and moves the request to the “Completed refills” folder.

CREATE TEXT AND EMAIL TEMPLATES FOR COMMON RESPONSES.

Based on options from your email provider, you can set up and select templates when composing replies. Just personalize a few fields rather than retyping the same paragraph 20 times today.

Here’s an email template for a prescription request: Thank you for requesting a refill of <drug name> for <pet name>. Our medical staff is reviewing the prescription request and will email you when it’s ready for pick up or if they have questions. Prescription requests submitted by 2 p.m. will be filled the same day and available for pickup after 4 p.m. If your request is submitted after 2 p.m., we will email you when it is ready on the following business day. You will get an email with a link to pay, park in our curbside pickup parking spot, and text us when you arrive. Thank you for using our hospital’s pharmacy and supporting small businesses in your community!

Once a technician fills the medication, text the client a link to pay and pickup instructions. Here’s a text template for refill pickups: We have filled <brand name> for <pet name>’s heartworm prevention. You received an instant rebate of $XX for purchasing 12 doses. Use this link to pay and get an immediate receipt. Park in our curbside pickup spot and text us when you arrive.

When you add doctor-client communication blocks, veterinarians will batch administrative tasks, provide timely responses, and create loyal clients. Busyness is not an excuse for poor client service. High appointment demands and staff shortages require doctors to work smarter, not harder, longer hours.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Enroll your team in the 1-hour course: Be the Boss of Your Schedule.

References:

[1] Halow B. Alarming Results from National Survey on Veterinary Stress. Available at: https://www.bashhalow.com/alarming-results-from-national-survey-on-veterinary-stress/. Accessed May 23, 2022.

[2] Dembosky A. It’s Not Just Doctors and Nurses. Veterinarians Are Burning Out, Too. National Public Radio. Available at https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/04/08/1086091339/its-not-just-doctors-and-nurses-veterinarians-are-burning-out-too. Accessed May 23, 2022.

[3] Ward E. Hookworm Infection in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals. Available at: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/hookworm-infection-in-dogs. Accessed May 23, 2022.

get 100+ courses