Preventive Veterinary Care Checkup: How Is Your Practice Doing?

So you've decided to launch preventive veterinary care protocols to enhance patient care and drive revenue. Great! How do you start?

The first step in the process is always a reality check. If you are a manager committed to preventive care, but your associates (or owner) don't walk that talk, start at ground zero. Implementing new protocols without changing the practice culture is bound to fail. Your first step will be to seriously discuss the future direction of the practice with the veterinarians to decide if this is something you can do.

But let's assume your team is on board with preventive care and you want to figure out how to improve your protocols. It's a great idea to begin with a checkup of your own practice. We can all have intuitions about how we are doing, but we may be surprised at what we find when we put our practices to the test.

Lay the Groundwork — And Get It Right

First determine which aspects of preventive veterinary care your practice values. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach; you must account for geographic and demographic differences. For example, tick-borne disease and Leptospirosis will be problems in some places and not in others. Use your knowledge of the area and your patient/client base to help define the must-haves for your preventive veterinary care protocols.

Have the practice medical team physically write out what they would recommend for their patients. What preventive care exams do they recommend? What diagnostic preventive lab work do they want to focus on? What vaccination programs work best to prevent disease in your location? How do those recommendations change with age? Think about four basic age ranges for a pet: puppy/kitten, young adult, senior adult, and geriatric.

This is the foundation of your preventive veterinary care plan, and what your practice will be recommending to your clients and patients — make sure to get it right.

Identify Growth Areas

For the next step, use your PIMS and/or any compliance applications you have to test your practice's performance against what you think is the right preventive veterinary care protocol.

For example, we used our PIMS to assess our performance with testing for tick-borne diseases, which are a real problem in our area. We ran a report on active canine patients over six months old and then ran a report for sales history of all diagnostic lab work that had tick-borne disease testing to see how we measured up.

Results from this kind of assessment will never be 100 percent. Some clients will have come from other practices, some will have adopted rescue or shelter pets who were already tested, some will refuse testing, and some will have visited express labs. Hence, we adopted 80 percent as a reasonable goal for our practices. Consider what goal makes sense for your practice.

We ran these numbers in a similar way for exams, vaccines, and flea/tick/heartworm prevention products — and found quite a bit of opportunity for growth. This assessment helped us enhance patient care and strengthen client-patient bonds with our practice. It also provided a path to drive revenue to support the practice goals: good wages for team members, reinvestment in the practice, and reasonable profit for the owner.

Recommend and Record

Say you've identified opportunity for growth. The next step is to evaluate how your team is discussing preventive care with clients. Set up your PIMS to measure success; you can make your own check boxes in an electronic medical record to ensure that every client has been recommended the appropriate care level for their pet. You can also use an application dashboard to track compliance by individual doctors and team members.

Need a less sophisticated system? Aim for a 10 percent increase in preventive lab work over the same month of the previous year, and see if your team is making the recommendations to meet that goal — and reward them when they do!

Communicate and Train

Identify training needs with team members, and make sure everyone understands what your doctors are recommending and how to support those recommendations. Ensure that clients are not receiving conflicting messages from team members about preventive veterinary care. Imagine that a technician emphasizes the value of preventive diagnostics and preventive dental care to a client. Then, a veterinarian tells the client not to worry about that right now. These kinds of conflicting messages are very harmful to your practice. Ask your doctors and support team members if these conflicts occur in your practice and then take the necessary steps to eliminate these sorts of miscues.

Now you have a sense of where you stand. Next, you need to learn how to implement your own protocols. This excellent resource from AAHA suggests practical steps and provides information about veterinary preventive care protocols that might help your practice. Remember, veterinary preventive care plans and protocols benefit patients, clients, and practices. It's time to get your practice on board.

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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