When Curbside Care Takes Too Long: Do This


It’s freezing outside and getting dark earlier. Curbside appointments are taking 45 to 60 minutes. How can your team be more efficient?


A veterinarian sees an average of 30 patients per day. The average healthcare call takes 8 minutes, which can include 3 minutes of hold time (1). If clients call you to announce their arrivals for curbside care, 30 calls total 4 hours of talk time. At a three-doctor practice, talk time jumps to 12 hours spread among the client care team. 

Post signs with instructions to text rather than call you for curbside care: “Curbside appointment? Text this: ARRIVED, your name, your pet’s name, parking spot #.” If you want clients to download an app for text and video chat during curbside care, include a QR code on signs. Clients will scan the QR with their smartphones and download and install the app upon arrival. Create response templates for frequently sent messages such as arrivals for curbside care and medication pickups.

TEXT THIS: “Welcome to our hospital’s curbside check-in. To prepare for your appointment, please connect to our Wi-Fi. The network name is <your network> and password is <your password>. A nurse will call/video chat with you shortly to get your pet’s history and then get your pet from your car. Please remain in the same parking spot for the duration of your curbside care appointment so our medical team may quickly reach you.” 

The last instruction is critical. Many teams are frustrated with clients who leave during curbside care to run errands and then don’t answer their phones. 

Time savings: 4 hours of phone time per number of doctors scheduled

2. use online forms.

Go digital with histories and treatment plans. The team at Lake Road Animal Hospital in Horseheads, New York, uses an online curbside care form for checkups. Include links to your form in email and text confirmations. Ask clients to complete the form before the day of their appointments. If they haven’t returned it in advance, resend the link during curbside check-in. Create text templates for common messages so you’re not retyping instructions all day.

When you need to prepare treatment plans for hospitalization, surgery, or dentistry, create templates in your practice-management software. For example, you will have a template for a Grade 2 dental procedure and would add the number of anticipated extractions. Doing a light edit is faster than recreating the treatment plan every time. Text the client that you’ve emailed the treatment plan and anesthetic consent, and then initiate a video chat to discuss it. After answering the client’s questions, explain, “To schedule Rex’s dental procedure, please check your email at <client email>. You may digitally sign the treatment plan and anesthetic consent form and reply to our email.” Ask your software provider about digital signature capture tools or use services such as https://www.docusign.com or https://www.hellosign.com.

Time savings: 2 ½ hours of phone time (average of 15 treatments per doctor per day at 10 minutes each)

3. get an app with video chat and telemedicine capabilities.

Psychologists’ research shows 55% of communication is body language (2). Video chat lets you better engage clients, which is especially important when clients have sick pets. You can express empathy through words plus body language to show your compassion. 

When doctors perform physical exams, they check 12 systems, which can take 10 minutes. Before COVID, clients saw and heard everything in exam rooms. Now during curbside care, the doctor performs the exam, calls to regurgitate findings, and answers the client’s questions. This can add another 10 minutes, doubling the doctor’s time.

At Russell Ridge Animal Hospital in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Dr. Brad Miller and his team have clients download its PetPro Connect app to video chat during curbside care. They can watch Dr. Miller perform the exam, explain findings, and discuss necessary treatments. I will share a video on how the team uses messaging and video chat in my course on Cut Curbside Care Time in Half. 

Video chat lets clients see, hear, and understand. If a dog needs cruciate ligament surgery, hold a knee model and medical illustrations to show how you will repair the injury. Video chat lets you project confidence when explaining diagnoses and treatments. Shaving 10 minutes off every curbside appointment could save you 3 hours per day. A bonus: Higher client compliance and revenue. 

Time savings: 3 hours of phone time per veterinarian 

Despite all of COVID’s inconveniences, it has forced veterinary teams to rethink workflow and embrace technology. Like curbside grocery and restaurant pickup, veterinary curbside care will continue. Even when you can welcome clients back inside, some may prefer curbside care. A client undergoing cancer treatments or who cares for a high-risk elderly parent will want the safety and convenience of curbside appointments. Make sure the client experience is as amazing outside as it is inside your facility. 

Get more training in Master Curbside Care: 3 Courses, which includes End the Phone Frenzy, Cut Curbside Care Time in Half, and Deliver 5-Star Curbside Care Experiences. This training package includes team enrollment with unlimited replay, handouts, online testing, and three hours of CE credit.


1. Insight Driven Health: Why First Impressions Matter, Accenture, May 2013. Available at: http://www.accenture.com/us-en/~/media/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Industries_11/Accenture-Why-First-Impressions-Matter-Healthcare-Providers-Scheduling.pdf. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

2. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian. Wikipedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Mehrabian. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

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