Does Your Veterinary Team Work Differently Post-COVID? That May Be a Good Thing.

COVID-19 changed the way everyone worked. Many of the processes and interactions we took for granted were suddenly considered high risk, and we needed to find new ones. Through coordinated team efforts, veterinary practices adapted, keeping clients and employees safe while ensuring care was available for patients.

With COVID-19 restrictions ebbing, we're facing pressure from clients and team members to "get back to normal. It's worthwhile to ask: Does your veterinary team work more effectively now? Why?

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Here are some of the changes at my practice that will remain in place and how it has helped our business.

Communication Strategies

Working around the lack of face-to-face communication gave us some new tools to make the practice run more efficiently:

  • Pre-appointment communication: Curbside service required clients to do things a bit differently, and our client service representative (CSR) team became adept at preparing them for it. From ensuring that we received records and documents before the appointment to guiding them through what would happen when they arrived, our clients' experience was smooth and well-managed. Knowing that we would need to contact them, the team also updated phone numbers and checked addresses and emails at the same time. Happier clients and more accurate records are definitely something we need to keep.
  • Making the most of text: Communication doesn't just have to be by phone; in fact, surveys have repeatedly shown that millennials don't like making phone calls and prefer businesses to offer a text service. From a simple update on a surgery's progress to allowing clients to book appointments without having to speak to the team, texting is a game-changer for us and our clients.
  • Emailing records: Email is about more than just unsolicited marketing campaigns. Emailing records and receipts is something that we've been able to do since going paperless—but not having clients in the building was a real catalyst to make better use of it. With clients' email addresses now collected for a much higher patient percentage, it is as easy to email the record from the practice management software as to print it out, allowing us to send the client the completed record once the doctor is finished. Reducing the amount of paper we use is a great bonus, too.

Process Flow

With clients no longer in the building, technicians have had to spend more time holding and managing patients while they wait for exams and treatments. Although they have accomplished this, it has still placed extra stress upon the team. Doing so efficiently while limiting the number of trips outside into the elements helped to clean up our processes:

  • Curbside service: This definitely isn't going away. In fact, if it were up to my doctor team, we would continue only having this option. Still, many of our clients are excited to be present during pet exams, so we moved to a hybrid model where we continue to offer curbside service to those who want it, even as others come into the building. The biggest opportunity here is to increase the number of drop-offs. As our clients have become more accustomed to leaving their pets with us, doctors are finding more flexibility to organize their days.

  • Complete estimates: With clients outside, you can't just "pop in" to update an estimate, so adding something that was missed from a treatment plan became more onerous. To combat this, our doctors created template treatment plans in our practice management software that included all the steps they would normally take for a given appointment type. This helps techs to prepare estimates for the doctors, ensuring we offer all clients the full range of available services and giving them the full picture to make their decisions. This is something we are definitely going to continue to update and develop.

  • Call recordings and electronic signatures: Keeping bits of paper, whether signed estimates or credit card slips, doesn't fit with the spirit of a paperless practice. As our team members have tablets and our Wi-Fi extends to the parking lot, we're now able to sign documents in the practice management software directly, keeping records where they can be easily found. Accurate, complete, and easily searchable phone recordings have also allowed us to accept verbal authorization for procedures, enabling a faster and smoother turnaround at drop-off.

  • Remote working: Having the team work off-site has been a real bonus for management, CSRs, and doctors. The infrastructure we put in place to facilitate this during the COVID-19 crisis will continue, and our move to cloud-hosted services—including everything from our practice management software to phone servers—means that we have more opportunities to survive a power outage or internet service interruption.

In the wake of the pandemic, there is a silver lining: we have the opportunity to upgrade our offering and platform. It's a benefit for everyone who interacts with the practice. As you start to reverse the changes you made during the pandemic, remember that you can — and should — keep what worked for your team and practice as a whole.

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Des Whittall
Practice Manager

Des Whittall is an owner and manager of two veterinary clinics and pet resorts in Texas. A software engineer by training, he worked with an investment bank for 13 years in roles ranging from technical support to business divestment, managing large international teams and complex vendor relationships. With his partner, he has grown the clinics and resorts and is focused on developing businesses that can provide high-quality medicine and development opportunities for their teams.

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