Communication Strategies to Save Time, Support Teams, and Provide Better Care
Are your doctors busy? Talk to any, and the answer is clearly a resounding "yes." There seems to be an endless stream of clients who want to see them and increasingly less time to recover in between. That's a recipe for burnout.
What if we could take some pressure off our doctors and allow them to do more with less, just by improving communication? We can, by empowering our teams to inform and guide owners about their wellness appointments before the doctor even enters the room. Here are some of the ways we achieved this at my veterinary practices.
Share the Load
Part of our job is to help veterinary clients make the best choices for their pet's health. Traditionally, this has fallen on doctors. However, by sharing that load across the whole team, we can improve efficiency and better prepare the client. To achieve this, we start communication as soon as the appointment is booked. Our customer service representatives then:
- Detail tests, vaccinations, and other recommended services for comprehensive preventive care.
- Highlight the value of the different parts of the protocol
- Answer any initial questions the client may have
The veterinary technician picks up when the client arrives:
- Explaining our wellness protocol again
- Addressing new concerns
- Getting the client's permission for recommended services
When the doctor is ready to start their part of the appointment, much of the preliminary work has already been handled. This allows the doctor to focus on their communication with the client and care for the patient.
Message Clearly and Often
Repetition is a great way to help veterinary clients understand your recommendations for their pets. Each time they hear the same information, they have another chance to absorb, ask questions, and develop confidence in the message. In my experience, there are two key things that your wellness protocols need to make this easier:
By maintaining consistent wellness protocols, we offer the same group of services to every pet of a given species and age range. These protocols were developed by our doctor team, all of whom needed to agree before the veterinary protocols were rolled out. Although a doctor may adjust that protocol based on the physical exam or history of the pet, the baseline of services we offer is the same every time. Without this, we would run the risk of giving conflicting information to clients and undermining their confidence in us.
Team members need to understand not just what our protocols are, but why each is included. Our veterinary technicians, for example, should understand why heartworm prevention needs to be given year-round or why we recommend a more comprehensive blood work panel for older pets. With this knowledge, they are better prepared to answer client questions and tend to come across as more genuine in their recommendations.
Adding some physical materials can also raise the impact and staying power of your message, as some people respond better to visual guides than verbal ones. Posters in our exam rooms, or information posted to our website or social media, can convey details effectively and comprehensively and give the client time to think of questions.
For example, my practices are in a high heartworm risk area, so we use posters to help explain the life cycle and show regional statistics on heartworm infections. Being able to point to these helps my technicians when they're explaining how heartworm prevention works. For resources, look to your vendors, who can often provide pre-made and high-quality materials.
Make It Easy
A final step we took was to make things as easy on the veterinary technicians as possible. Our practice management software allows us to create groups of treatments that we aligned with packages advertised in the exam rooms. Often, veterinary clients will select a group of treatments, and they can be entered as a single group once the doctor approves the treatment plan. Then, another member of the team prepares everything needed for blood draws of vaccines.
As clients continue to receive consistent education on our protocols, and hopefully see the benefits from them, we should have less education to do each year. This means less time is taken for each appointment, further improving efficiency.
Making our whole team partners in care has given them a sense of ownership, helped to build strong relationships with our clients, and hopefully reduced pressure on our doctor team. It's a win for everyone involved.