Save Time and Streamline: Tips for Doing More With Less at Your Practice
Sometimes, you just have to do more with less. The squeeze between higher prices and less money in the economy is reducing cash flow, making it even harder to hire and retain veterinary team members. In other words, it's still a challenging time to run a veterinary practice, especially on the heels of pandemic disruptions.
Amid all of this, you'll need to take advantage of every opportunity to make the most of a challenging situation. This means learning how to save time and redirecting it where needed, be it through improved time management strategies or more streamlined operations. Here's how.
5 Tips for Saving Time in Veterinary Practice
If you want to find ways to save time, you are not alone. According to the Finding the Time publication by IDEXX, 67% of practices polled say improving operational efficiency is a high or top priority.
Here are some time-saving techniques that were successful in my practices.
- Set up a text gateway: Texting has become a ubiquitous form of communication that people love for being asynchronous and quick. Implementing a texting option not only upgrades your communication platforms but also saves tremendous time. A phone call to say no parasites were found or that blood work was within normal limits can take 5 minutes or more. A text is instantaneous—and if automated, takes no time at all. Texting lets your technician team quickly inform clients without interrupting their day.
- Wellness templates: Save time while also ensuring you capture all revenue by using templates in your PIMS to drive wellness exams. The template can be quickly transferred to the visit list, and any services the client declines are marked in the history as having been offered. It also provides a basis for your customer service team to explain what will be offered in the exam room, which generally increases client compliance.
- Illness templates: Much like their wellness counterparts, these templates create a structure for your medical protocols. While veterinarians can add or subtract items based on exam and patient history, the templates act as a reminder of what the medical team has agreed to for the more common complaints, such as vomiting and diarrhea or itchy ears. This makes them quicker to work through and enter into the invoice.
- Electronic medical records: Still using paper records? If so, it's definitely time to move to the electronic record system included in almost all practice management software. For added benefit, create documents for your most common exams and procedures that are prefilled with "normal" items, allowing your veterinarians to quickly add abnormal and diagnosis information.
- Technology upgrades: The cost of upgrading your computers and other equipment can seem high, but how often do you hear your team complain about waiting for a computer, printer, or another piece of equipment? That time adds up, as do frayed nerves; don't wait until your equipment fails entirely to replace it.
Make the Most of What You Have
Time-saving techniques can open hours in your day, so you'll want to make the most of it. This means looking for further opportunities for efficiencies.
- Prepayment: Working with pet owners to get payment in advance of drop-off allows you to save time in your busy morning period by moving both discussion of the estimate and collection of payment to a more convent time. If your software supports online payments, you can save even more time by sending a payment link to your client to click through and complete when they're ready.
- Automated phone systems: People may dislike automated recordings, but the fact is, they can save significant time and resources for your practice when deployed properly. Prescription refills are a great example of this; add an option to order a prescription refill to your phone tree then send that to a voicemail box, which your technicians can check at specific times of the day.
- Remote workers: Remote work hasn't always been a great fit for veterinary medicine, but if you have a voice over internet protocol phone system, and cloud software, it's easy to employ a team member to make outgoing compliance calls to your clients. Allowing remote work gives you access to a wider pool of potential employees, too, which may then lower the cost of having them in the office at all working hours.
- Service charging: Sometimes, industry professionals make their own lives more difficult by charging for tasks rather than services. For example, if you charge radiographs by the shot, adding in extras for external consultation, then you're creating extra discussions with the pet owner about fees and savings. Instead, consider charging for the service—in this case, diagnostic radiography—and focus on the service that the client sees value in.
- Drop-offs: Walk-in clients with unwell pets are a great disruptor to the schedule. Still, you don't want to turn away clients, so offering drop-off appointments allows your veterinarian to see the patient when they become available, without frustrating the owner waiting in your lobby or parking lot.
As it appears that 2023 will continue to present challenges to veterinary practices everywhere, it's essential that team members and management find ways to improve their operations and care. These time-saving and streamlining strategies, among others, enable veterinary professionals to prepare for the new year—and the opportunities it may offer.