Save Time in Your Daily Appointment Flow and Increase Productivity

As my veterinary practices have grown, we've incorporated more doctors and technicians, each bringing with them new ideas and approaches. We certainly appreciate those—they help us to offer better medicine and improve our services—but left unchecked, they can lead to different levels of service, depending on which provider a patient sees. That harms operations across the board, especially in regard to time management.

This is where protocols come in. They allow us to set a standard of care and efficiency our clients will experience regardless of whom they see. Still, just having protocols isn't enough; to get the full benefits, your team needs to know exactly what the protocols are and how to apply them consistently.

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I know that with teams stretched so thin, this may not seem like the right time to introduce new ways of working, but with practices so busy this is exactly what we need to reach to help make your practice more efficient and productive. Here's how.

What to Cover with Protocols

The first step is to identify what you want your protocols to cover. The truth is that almost all aspects of clinic operations can be incorporated—everything from phone scripts to medical procedures. That doesn't mean you need to create a single list of everything you do, which can be too time-consuming. Instead, focus on areas where you currently experience the most conflict.

If your practice has more than one doctor, this is particularly important; your clients may become confused or even angry if, say, one doctor insists that bloodwork is required before any anesthetic procedure, but another tells them it's optional. Although doctors can always adjust based on their diagnosis or patient observations, this gives them a common starting point. Then, they can explain any necessary changes to the client and manage expectations.

Benefits of Practice Protocols

Wellness protocols have shown significant benefits at my clinics in several ways. First, if the team is well-versed in our approach, then they're able to set client expectations before the doctor comes into the room, saving time for the doctor who can discuss other recommendations.

As a result, we've added two tiers of recommendations and protocols, for adult and senior pets, to the common ones for the youngest patients. These new tiers include recommendations for dental care, bloodwork, chest X-rays, and tonometry. This doesn't mean that every client will accept our recommendations, but over time, as they hear a consistent message from all team members, they're more likely to see the benefits.

The second benefit is that team members know what to expect. This way, your team can provide better estimates to clients knowing they're including the items the doctor will likely want. It also becomes easier to plan appointment lengths, knowing that a senior workup will likely take longer or that a pre-surgical appointment will include a blood draw and electrocardiogram. Team members appreciate knowing that the doctors will back them up if they have proposed solutions and being able to get things ready before the patient is in the room. Overall, it reduces stress and saves time while building trust between your teams.

Get the Most from Your Team

Although it may seem simple, you can greatly improve the client experience by getting your whole team on the same page. When we were creating our protocols, we found a few things helped to get people on board.

  • Building consensus: Start from a position of agreement. Your doctor team should formulate medical procedures; everything else is owned by the management team. Resolve any differences of opinion within those groups and then present to the other staff members explaining the rationale for what you're doing. Try to make the team feel part of this process, increasing their sense of ownership and making it easier to talk to clients.
  • Ensuring proper documentation: Having great policies isn't going to be useful unless you clearly and properly document them and make them available to both new team members and existing staff. Create a template for documentation, establishing a consistent look and feel. You can then either store physical copies, or, even better, keep electronic versions that your team can access on your intranet.
  • Setting expectations: Help team members understand that this is the expected level of care every patient receives. Doctors will always want to have the ability to adjust based on the patient in front of them, but this ensures everyone understands the gold standard you're shooting for. Follow-up by checking that items and services are being offered and recording whether clients have declined them on the Patient Visit List for the next visit.

As you strive to save time in your appointment flow and increase productivity for the team, you can use well-understood protocols that inspire confidence in your clients, give your team a head start on each appointment, and ultimately deliver the most advanced care to every patient.

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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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