Why You Need to Open Up the Bottlenecks in Your Veterinary Practice

Every veterinary practice has workflow problems that decrease productivity and efficiency — and your practice is probably no exception. So what can you do about it? By identifying common bottlenecks and the problems they cause in your practice, you can address them and move toward meeting your productivity goals.

What Bottlenecks Are Slowing You Down?

Every practice is different, but they tend to share common workflow problems. Whether your practice is a large referral organization or a small, one-doctor operation, you probably experience issues similar to many other practices. Fortunately, this means that common issues are easy to identify and solve. Here are three common issues that decrease productivity in veterinary practices:

  • Paper Charts: Paper charts eat up an incredible amount of time. Between pulling charts before appointments, keeping track of them throughout the day as they change hands, and refiling them at the end of the day, chart management is almost a full-time job. Even if your practice uses digital charts, are you using paper consent, treatment, anesthesia, and dental forms that must be scanned in and shredded later?

  • Staff Miscommunications: Interpreting doctor handwriting in a chart or smudged instructions on a whiteboard can lead to costly mistakes. Fluffy may receive 18 milligrams of medication instead of 13 milligrams. Tracking down a veterinarian and information about toxicity potential can eat up precious time, and the conversation you'll need to have with Fluffy's owner about the mistake is less than comfortable.

  • Missed Charges: Did you know that, according to AAHA, the average veterinary practice misses 17% of patient charges? Even if you catch some of those charges after the fact, you're stuck calling clients to let them know they were mischarged, and their overall impression of your practice is undoubtedly tarnished.

These are just a few of the common workflow problems veterinary practices share. Your team can help you identify other workflow problems at a brainstorming session, monthly one-on-ones, or weekly staff meetings.

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What Problems Do Bottlenecks Cause in Your Practice?

The impact of bottlenecks is felt by everyone involved in the patient care process. Team members become frustrated, clients leave disgruntled, and patients don't receive the best possible care. Some specific problems your practice might experience include:

  • Longer Client Wait Times: Ultimately, time wasted by inefficient workflows trickles down to your clients. They're left waiting on the phone while your client service representative chases down a doctor or at your front desk while you hunt for a missing chart, which can make your practice seem disorganized and overwhelmed.

  • Missed Treatments: Without an efficient workflow, busy team members may forget to administer important treatments, you may not realize a veterinarian hurriedly added a treatment on their way into an exam room, or a treatment may inadvertently be erased from the whiteboard. These situations all interfere with your ability to deliver excellent patient care.

  • Lost Revenue: Time is money, and if workflow issues are wasting time, then your bottom line is also affected. Add that to potentially 17% of charges that you may be missing and the clients who might take their pets elsewhere because your practice seems disorganized or leaves them waiting, and your practice's revenue is likely impacted by inefficient workflows.

Address Common Workflow Problems in Your Veterinary Practice

Once you identify your practice's workflow issues and the impact they have, you can strategize ways to move past them. The key is to implement veterinary protocols that improve your team's workflow, and the easiest way to do this often revolves around technology solutions that increase efficiency, such as:

  • Paperless Charting: If you haven't made the move to paperless yet, you're missing a golden time-saving opportunity. Think of the time you'll have when you no longer need to chase down lost files, scan and shred documents, and refile charts.

  • Digital Whiteboards: A digital whiteboard will eliminate miscommunications that can stem from using physical whiteboards. Imagine no more squinting to read messy handwriting or trying to remember instructions that were accidentally erased.

  • Charge Capture Technology: Strategize with your team to design a protocol to cross-check patient treatments and procedures to cut down on missed charges. Although you may not eliminate them completely, you can significantly reduce them. Better yet, add a digital workflow optimization system that includes charge capture to virtually eliminate missed charges, and regain that 17%.

Bottlenecks may be part of veterinary practice life, but they don't have to hold your practice back from reaching its goals. Identify and eliminate your workflow issues to reduce your team's stress and provide better service for your clients and patients.

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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at sarahrumple.com.

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