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Tell, Don’t Ask to Fix Compliance Blunders

Tell, Don’t Ask to Fix Compliance Blunders

Wishy-washy conversations may cause clients to dismiss necessary follow-up care and to refill medications, putting patient care and practice revenue at risk. Pet owners expect clear, specific guidance from your veterinary team. Here are common compliance blunders and how to correct them:

 

Compliance blunder: “Do you need any refills today?”

Veterinarians sell 62 percent of pet medications, reports the market research firm Packaged Facts. Eight out of 10 clients trust what their veterinarians say about pet drugs. (*1) Compliance starts at check-in. Receptionists should view drug-purchase history when clients visit for appointments, boarding or to pick up food and medications. The AAHA compliance study found only 55 percent of dogs get year-round heartworm preventatives. Only 30 percent of practices send reminders to refill chronic medications. (*2)

 

How to fix:

Tell, don’t ask. See when preventatives were last purchased and how many doses were sold. Some clients also may share medication between pets. If only a few doses remain, prompt the client to refill the prescription now. If the client visited five months ago and bought a six pack of heartworm prevention, one dose is left. Tell the pet owner, “I see that Max has one dose left of his heartworm preventatives. Let me tell you about our rebates so you may save the most.”

Check all pets in the family to see which need refills for preventatives and chronic drugs. The average American family has two pets (1.6 dogs and 2.1 cats), according to the American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook. (*3) I may be visiting for my cat Alex’s checkup, but my second cat, Caymus, needs his medication for cardiomyopathy refilled. My veterinarian is 15 minutes from my home, which turns into 30 to 45 minutes each way during rush-hour traffic. Ensure timely refills, help me avoid road rage and improve your refill compliance.

If your hospital has an online store, guide clients to set up accounts and auto refills during today’s visit. Tell the pet owner, “You can pick up future refills at our hospital, or I can help you set up auto refills through our online store now. Your pet’s preventatives will be automatically shipped each month until the next heartworm test is due. Do you prefer to get medication now or have it delivered to you with free shipping?”

 

Compliance blunder: “Do you want to schedule a recheck?”

Medical progress and pediatric exams have specific follow-up timelines. Clients may perceive a “recheck” as free and optional. About 75 percent of practices “always” or “most of the time” forward book patients’ progress exams, according to a Veterinary Hospital Managers Association survey. (*4)

 

How to fix:

Lead the client to book now because the appointment reminder will print on today’s receipt. Your busy hospital also may be booking exams one to two weeks in advance. If the client doesn’t book now, an appointment may not be available when follow-up care is due. Use the term “medical progress exam” to stress the urgency and importance of follow-up care. Tell the pet owner, “Dr. Patten needs to see Max for a progress exam for his skin infection in two weeks. Let’s book the appointment now so you get your first choice of time and day. Two weeks from today would be Thursday, Nov. 15. Does this same time, 9 a.m., work for you?” If the client is here at 9 a.m. on a Thursday, she may be able to return at a similar time and weekday. Book the appointment with the same veterinarian, ensuring continuity of care and efficient use of exam time.

Because you follow specific timing of vaccines, diagnostics and deworming for pediatric patients, book the next puppy or kitten exam today. Tell the pet owner, “Dr. Jeff needs to see your kitten again in three weeks, which would be Nov. 15. Does this same time, 1 p.m., work for you?”

Every practice has a mind-erase hallway that connects exam rooms to the front desk. Clients may forget to schedule follow-up care on the way to the checkout counter. To bridge this gap, choose from three strategies:

  1. If you have computers in exam rooms, the technician or veterinarian should book the next exam now. Nervous about a doctor using the appointment scheduler? Train to trust!
  2. Use a travel sheet or alert in your practice-management software. Hospitals with paper or paper-light records could use laminated travel sheets to note charges, reminders and follow-up care to be entered.
  3. Walk the client to the checkout desk for a verbal handoff. The technician or veterinarian would tell the receptionist, “<Client name> needs to schedule a progress exam for an ear infection for <pet name> on <date>.”

Create Level 1 and Level 2 progress exams,

depending on the amount of exam time needed for follow-up care. Level 1 progress exams would be 10-minute appointments for conditions such as ear infections, while Level 2 progress exams are more complex cases such as diabetes and would be 20 minutes. When scheduling follow-up exams, strive for same day, same time and same doctor.

 

Compliance blunder: “Do you want to book the dental procedure that the doctor recommended?”

The patient’s dental disease will get worse, and the price of treatment will significantly increase over time. Replace the wiggle word of “recommend” with the action word of “need.”

 

How to fix:

Schedule the procedure on the day of diagnosis. To guide the pet owner to book now, offer the doctor’s next two surgical/dental days. Schedule the procedure with the same veterinarian who diagnosed the condition because he will be familiar with the case and enjoy production pay. Booking with the same doctor also increases clients’ confidence.

If the client will check out at the front desk, the receptionist should schedule the procedure first, and then collect payment for today’s services. Lead the client with the two-yes-options technique. Tell the pet owner, “Dr. Lavallee diagnosed Caymus with Grade 1 dental disease. Let’s schedule his procedure first, and then I will get you checked out for today’s services. We can perform the dental treatment next Monday or Wednesday. Which fits your schedule?” Provide fasting instructions and let the client know you will call, email or text to confirm one day before the procedure. An appointment reminder for the procedure will print on today’s receipt.

 

When you confidently explain needed follow-up care and refills, you will guide clients’ decisions. The result is healthier patients and practice revenue. Get more training in my online CE class on “Are Your Wiggle Words Killing Compliance?” Enroll at here.

References:

*1 –  Niedziela, K. Veterinarians Sell 62% of Pet Drugs. Today’s Veterinary Business. Published September 2017. Accessed Sept. 17, 2018 at https://todaysveterinarybusiness.com/veterinarians-sell-62-pet-drugs/.

*2 – Compliance: Taking Quality Care to the Next Level. American Animal Hospital Association, 2009, pp. 11, 19.

*3 – 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook. Accessed Sept. 17, 2018 at www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx.

*4 – DVM360.com staff. VHMA Files: Forward Thinking, How to Use Forward Booking for Your Practice. Published Jan. 22, 2015. Accessed Sept. 17, 20158 at http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/vhma-files-forward-thinking.

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Stop Hiding Patient Care “In the Back”

Stop Hiding Patient Care “In the Back”

While consulting a practice, I observed client after client challenge receptionists over fees for exams and other professional services. The high-volume hospital performed exams, gave vaccines and delivered other services in the treatment area in the interest of efficiency. Conducting professional services behind closed doors left pet owners questioning charges. Some wondered whether their pets were really vaccinated.

To create perception of value and improve client education, I persuaded doctors to deliver services in front of clients in exam rooms. Client complaints immediately stopped. Because 65% of people are visual learners, deliver veterinary care that engages pet owners. (*1) Here are ways to stop hiding patient care “in the back”:

 

Verbalize your physical exam.

Once you begin the nose-to-tail exam, describe every step, giving clients play-by-play details as you cover each body system. If you engage in small talk during the physical exam, pet owners may assume you’re just petting their animals rather than assessing their overall health. Tell the client, “For your pet’s physical exam, I will assess 12 areas, including eyes, ears, nose and throat, teeth and gums, coat and skin, heart, abdomen, limbs and paws, urogenital system, lungs, gastrointestinal system and weight.” Then give them guided tours of their pets.

Let children listen to their pets’ hearts through your stethoscope. You’ll show kids the cool science of veterinary medicine while inspiring future responsible pet owners.

 

Explain diseases you’re protecting against as you vaccinate.

When vaccinating a dog for leptospirosis, ask risk-assessment questions and explain how the bacterial infection is spread. This shows clients you tailor vaccines for every patient.

 

Use teaching tools.

The exam room is your classroom. When you’re an effective communicator, you can increase acceptance for professional services and products. Replace artwork of dogs and cats with framed posters on frequently discussed topics of heartworms, age analogy charts and parasite prevalence maps. Use models, websites, dry-erase boards, x-rays, handouts, exam report cards, and videos as teaching tools.

Let’s say you advise a pet owner to give subcutaneous fluids to her cat to treat its kidney disease. Rather than administering fluids in the treatment area, demonstrate it in the exam room. Tell the pet owner, “Let’s give your cat fluids together today, so you will know how to do it at home. You’re welcome to record a video on your smartphone for reference. I also will text you a link to our hospital’s YouTube video on how to give fluids. Giving your cat fluids three times per week will keep her hydrated and let us better manage her kidney disease together.”

 

Invite clients to look in your microscope.

Your ear cytology reveals a cat’s ear mites. Rather than returning to the exam room to explain your diagnosis, tell the client, “Come with me. You’ve got to see these ear mites.” When she peers into your microscope, the pet owner exclaims, “Those look like monsters! No wonder our cat was scratching his ears.” You’ve shared behind-the-scenes magic while guaranteeing compliance for treatment.

 

Show pet owners where procedures will happen.

From discussing dental treatments to orthopedic surgeries, boost clients’ confidence in your procedures with a quick tour. Walk clients through your in-house laboratory, treatment area and surgical suite. Also post a virtual tour on your website. Half of the family may be present for today’s exam and other caretakers can see the same tour online.

Seeing where procedures will be performed may comfort clients who have a fear of anesthesia. Clients will be impressed with the cleanliness and sophistication of your surgical suite. Many may tell you, “Wow, this looks just like a human hospital.”

After presenting the treatment plan and completing the tour, ask, “What questions can I answer about your pet’s dental procedure and our anesthetic protocols?” The phrase of “what questions” invites pet owners to share concerns or get more information. This wording is more effective than the yes-or-no choice of “Do you have any questions?” Once you’ve provided answers, ask clients for commitments to treat. Say, “Do you need more information, or have I explained enough for you to decide?”

If emergency care is being delivered in the treatment area and you can’t do a tour now, have photo books or digital slideshows of procedures. Take a photo of each professional service listed on your treatment plans, from your in-house lab to patients receiving nursing care during recovery.

 

Let clients watch care being delivered.

Laser therapy can be performed in exam rooms with clients present. Seeing treatments helps them understand its benefits and book ongoing therapy.

Clients may be able to observe certain workups. My cat, Caymus, has cardiomyopathy. Dr. Jennifer Lavallee, owner of The Cat Specialist in Castle Rock, Colo., lets me watch when she performs his cardiac ultrasound. She discusses findings and shares ultrasound images. As a result, I’m a compliant client. Consider which procedures and treatments would be appropriate for your clients to witness. Obviously, you don’t want bystanders hovering in your surgical suite or interrupting emergencies.

 

Banish the phrase “in the back.”

You can see clients’ tense reactions when they hear these words. Pet owners may become anxious about what will happen to their animals behind closed doors. Explain where and why patient care will happen such as “I’m going to take your cat to the treatment area where another technician will assist me in collecting his urine sample. We’ll return in about 5 minutes and start the urinalysis, so you have results during today’s exam.” Replace the negative words of “in the back” with “treatment area,” which is more professional and accurately describes your facility.

 

Demonstrating the quality and compassion of your care in front of clients will develop trusting relationships while increasing compliance. Get more training in my online CE class on “Creating the 5-Star Experience in the Exam Room”.

Reference:

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

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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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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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5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental Experience

5 Reasons Clients Will Love Your Dental 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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