Veterinary Staff Members Share 3 Ways Technology Saves Time and Helps Communication
Veterinary practices are busier than ever.
As doctor-to-patient ratios soar, they’re managing a higher demand for appointments, full curbside waiting areas, and a long list of tasks that surround each visit. Staff is doing all of this while providing customer service that keeps clients feeling like family.
Statistics confirm what offices experience daily. According to VetSuccess, between 2020 and 2021 the number of visits to veterinary offices increased by 5%. That’s a lot of growth in a single 12-month period. Reception staff see these challenges first because they’re on the front line. Many times, they’re also the first to find solutions.
Two front-desk team members, Shannon Falcon of Larchmont Animal Hospital in New York and Melissa Bennet of Summit Chase Animal Hospital in Georgia, have found that part of the answer. They’ve seen that technology keeps busy days flowing and patients happy.
1. Tech makes morning calls manageableLarchmont Animal Hospital’s front desk team members used to start each morning by working through a list of calls to provide clients with daily updates. It was a time-consuming, repetitive process that had to be completed before moving on to the rest of their day.
Now, Falcon uses the digital templates within Vet Hero, a client communications software solution that integrates with Larchmont’s pre-existing practice management tool. “I can make one for a specific kind of test result, like acute flex bloodwork, that came back positive or negative. Then I can send it to a bunch of clients all at once and I have a record that says [a specific client] received their results,” she said.
She’s noticed that staff members appreciate the efficiency too. “We used to have to call everybody individually, make sure they received our message, hand-write it in the chart, and put it away. Now I just send a text and an email all at once and I’m done. That saves a lot of time first thing in the day,” she said.
2. Two-way texting keeps the day flowing for practices and clientsTechnology isn’t just good for practice management, it’s good for clients.
Bennet, whose practice also uses Vet Hero, shared that “We have a lot of teachers come here and they’re unavailable at certain hours, but they can text. It’s easy to shoot them a message that says something like, ‘Hey, your pet’s out of surgery.’”
For practices that have reached client capacity, texting provides a way for them to maximize their services to existing customers. They can provide quick answers to questions, suggestions for post-op instructions, reminders of changes to office hours and updates about other policies. Texting is also key to managing the curbside pickup process that offices have implemented since the pandemic while it helps manage patient flows. Doctors can use tele-triage to remotely work with less urgent cases that don’t need an in-person visit. These interactions screen and educate clients, calm fears about medical conditions, and keep phone lines clear for emergencies.
Bennet, who estimated her practice’s patient load has doubled in the last two years, has seen it firsthand. She said, “Sometimes you just can’t get a client in same day, but you can have them send us a picture of that incision so we can look at it and see what has to happen or that everything’s OK.”
3. Electronic reminders decrease no-showsAccording to a report by the American Animal Hospital Association, 11% of clients don’t show up. At a time when practices are busier than ever and scheduled time is precious, no-show rates impact patient care and profits. If one out of ten clients for a single doctor on a daily schedule doesn’t attend an appointment, and that time is worth $150 in revenue, the cost totals $39,000 annually based on a five-day business week.
Losses compound when practices are open six days a week, operate with multiple veterinarians, or offer higher-revenue appointments. Industry research shows that reminders increase appointment retention by an average of 26% and practices have seen their effectiveness firsthand. “A client will make an appointment three days prior and then forget about it in those same three days,” said Bennet.
Although it’s been proven to help, calling or sending cards through the mail to ensure each patient is aware of their appointment and then documenting each action costs significant staff hours. Technology makes this process more efficient. Vet Hero’s reminder function works with text, email and auto calling while it also offers write-back functionality to make notations into a patient’s files through a PIMS integration.
Bennet shared how the software works for her. “When patients confirm an appointment, a green check comes up in their file; that’s how we know it’s confirmed.” According to Falcon reminders also encourage patients to make an appointment in the first place, which then supports compliance. “We hear things like, ‘I was ignoring these messages before, but now I need to get in and get this done.’”
Vet Hero is easy to learn and makes a happy reception deskAlthough clinics may worry that time-saving technology takes a lot of up-front time or other resources to learn, it doesn’t have to be the case.
“I would say it took reception staff maybe a day or so to become comfortable with adding Vet Hero to their daily lives,” said Falcon, who conducted some work in advance to set programs up for the staff. She also credited the Patterson support staff for providing fast, reliable answers to any questions she had and suggests that others consider it for their practices when they look at consolidating the functionality in their tools.
“If you consolidate all of what you need in one place, it will make your life easier. And happy reception means happy clients,” Falcon said before finishing, “and that means a happy doctor.”
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