How to Increase Productivity Without Increasing Cost

How to do more with less? That is a productivity question every practice manager I know would love to answer. It is a question that has bedeviled more teams than I can count, and my own teams as well. So what can we do?

The first step is to define what exactly it is you want more of: Is it more clients? More income? More positive reviews? More client satisfaction? Despite really wanting it all, you need to decide what to prioritize. Define what you want so that as a practice, you don't waste time spinning your wheels with too many initiatives.

Let's say you decide you're most interested in generating more income per team member. How can you increase productivity without increasing costs? Here are some ways to maximize your team's time on the clock, without raising your budget.

Increase Team Output

Remember that team time is the most expensive resource you have. You can make the best use of your staff's precious hours by using tools you probably already have, along with a little creativity:

Optimize your schedule. Quit using the appointment scheduler as an electronic version of the old paper binder, and make it work for you. Build your scheduler to accommodate 5-minute to 40-minute appointment increments, and set up pre-selected appointment times for specific visit types. This will limit scheduling misfires, such as not having the same 20-minute block for multiple radiographs or a vaccine booster.

Use all available tech. Our clients want efficient communication with us, and they generally prefer electronic means for simple tasks. Text or email to confirm appointments, send reminders, and followups. Offer appointment requests and scheduling online. Set the stage for client expectations for the appointment, remind them of services due, and then share results and reports through pet portals and patient/client facing apps. This all frees up time for the CSR team, enabling them to focus on the clients in front of them, resulting in better client service.

Consider extended hours. Instead of creating your schedule the same way you always have, what if you mix it up to extend productivity? Some practices are making use of veterinary technology to reach into the overnight hours: They contract with a telehealth service that provides clients the opportunity to talk to a "doctor on call." This on-call veterinarian will refer emergency cases appropriately, but can also schedule sick patients for early morning appointments at your practice. Getting those clients in your door first thing in the morning rather than missing the opportunity to serve them is great.

Do you have some team members who would prefer to start and end later one or two days a week? Try extending evening hours to see if that works for you. Having a doctor start and end their day earlier is likely to net out positively for practices in terms of team schedule. We are working right now on refining our flex scheduling and finding we are netting one to two additional appointments each day with the same inputs.

Book Quality Appointments

The concept of quality appointments is critical: All appointments are not equal. A nail trim with an aggressive dog at 5 p.m. that takes three team members 20 minutes will leave doctors and clients waiting, and put stress on the team, without generating a return. Revenue per patient visit is a crucial measure to increase productivity. Try to create a positive return on investment of time and energy in every appointment. When doctors are seeing patients, the entire team needs to help make those appointments the best they can be for patients and clients. Focus on quality.

Train Your Team Prudently

The idea of quality extends across the practice. Training your team for success can pay dividends and it is not the place to skimp. But remember that time is money, so don't try to reinvent the wheel. You can use technology to help you be more efficient. Does your veterinary software offer online training for your CSR team? Use it to make sure all your team members are on the same playing field.

Be mindful of time-wasting activities and focus your training efforts on what is critical for your team. Use "lunch and learns" and continuing education wisely. These can be very helpful and provide important introductions to new products or services that you wish to offer, or they can be costly to the practice in terms of overtime and missed appointment opportunities. Don't waste team time and resources on "free lunch" if the session will not add enough value to justify the time and expense.

The factors that increase productivity are largely within our control, but they are not always easy to change. Start with defining a goal, and then plan your steps to get there. Make sure to measure your efforts and be willing to change it up when it's not working. Doing more with less doesn't have to be stressful or costly when you use the resources already at your disposal.


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Nancy Drumm
General Manager, Capital Vets

Nancy Drumm is the daughter of a veterinarian and the granddaughter of a dairy farmer. She started working at the family practice at the age of 8, helping her father see patients after dinner, and the practice has been part of her entire life. She has been a farmer for many years as well. She has a burning interest in how things work and enjoys the challenges of running a business. She combines that curiosity and a willingness to try new things with a desire to use data to help us all make better decisions for our lives and practices.

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