Anyone who has ever worked in a clinic knows appointment scheduling is one of the singular most important things you need to do well if you have any hope of staying sane and leaving work on time. Which makes it all the more galling that it’s also an area where many practices trip themselves up time and time again.
Poor scheduling creates absolute chaos – angering clients, stressing the clinical team, and causing receptionists to weep in despair.
Without a stellar system in place, leaders can wave goodbye to their work-life balance and say hello to a lot of overtime.
Read on for our best veterinary scheduling tips, so your team can get in their flow and maintain their mojo at work.
1. Create Standard Protocols
When it comes to veterinary appointment flow, keeping everyone in the loop with standard protocols and processes is fundamental if you want everything to run smoothly.
If you don’t have one already, create a table outlining standardized appointment lengths. Although these lengths can vary from clinic to clinic, specific procedures will take a lot less time than others and should be categorized accordingly.
Create categories of appointments detailing how long they last and when they should be booked.
Get in the weeds and create clarity where there is confusion- because confusion always leads to chaos.
2. Invest In Veterinary Appointment Scheduling Software
Tools like PetsApp can also create asynchronous conversations that effectively handle non-urgent inquiries- reducing your client care team’s immediate workload.
Integrating your booking, charting, diagnostic testing, billing, and reminders onto one platform or at least using systems that are happy to ‘talk’ to each other further streamlines the veterinary scheduling process.
3. Ask The Right Pre-booking Questions
Sometimes, a client can come in for one thing but end up talking about another.
This can derail the appointment and frustrate the clinician. The resulting delays then cascade negatively through the day, chewing up everyone’s time and patience.
Prerequisite questions can prevent this by allowing the client care team to effectively identify the issues and book an appointment for the right doctor at the best time.
It also provides the clinical team with an overview of the reason for the appointment before they begin the meeting. This early form of triage also helps to screen for high urgency cases.
When a sick pet is being booked in, the client care team should ask a set of questions that allow them to understand:
1. What is the issue?
2. How much of the problem is happening?
3. When did the problem start?
4. Has the pet’s behavior changed?
These four questions, when coupled with an assessment of how distressed the client is, are enough for a well-trained employee to assess the urgency of the situation.
All that is required next is to decide what answers trigger what actions.
For example, if the answers are:
1. ‘My pet is bleeding.’
2. ‘A lot.’
3. ‘5 minutes ago.’
4. ‘He seems sleepy.’
Then regardless of the client’s demeanor, this qualifies as an emergency.
For not as ‘exciting’ cases, like routine wellbeing appointments, triage questions are not necessarily needed. Instead, the following question is invaluable:
‘Does your pet have any other health concerns you would like to discuss with the vet?’
The answer to this question allows the client care team member to prime the client that this may develop into more than a normal wellness conversation. It also allows the vet to be aware of a potential ‘banana skin’ in the schedule. Either getting to the point more quickly or scheduling longer if the issue warrants this action.
4. Review Basic Information During Bookings
It is good practice to check basic information (address, number, and email) in case any details have changed. This also allows for accurate delivery of reminders.
During these calls, don’t forget to inquire into whether the client has any new pets, as this is a great opportunity to book them in at the same time.
It may also allow for the identification of unserviced pets such as cats, which are often overlooked.
5. Forward Book Clients
Next time you (or one of your teammates) wrap up with a client, book their next appointment in advance.
Not only does this save your receptionist team from having to chase the client up, but increases your practice’s compliance and financial performance.
6. Reduce No Shows And Late Clients
There are several things you can do to keep clients on time.
Ensure that you provide directions, an address, and a zip or postal code once they have confirmed their appointment (especially if they are new clients). This can reduce no-shows or latecomers.
Automated text reminders or emails are also extremely useful for scatterbrained clients. Which in this day and age, pretty much all of us!
7. Keep Chatty Clients In Check
While friendly, chatty clients can be great, they can also be enemy number one when it comes to finishing appointments on time.
One strategy you can use to overcome this issue is to have some ‘chatty client’ protocols.
If a client is holding up the flow of service, have a technician or client care teammate pop into the exam room to say:
‘Doctor, is there anything else you need as you wrap up your appointment?’
This preemptive warning subtly signals to the vet that their next client is waiting, giving them a polite exit strategy.
The Lowdown On Veterinary Appointment Scheduling
Nothing irritates clients more than chronically running behind schedule.
Doing so will cause them to be grouchy before entering the exam room- making rapport harder to build.
This, in turn, makes the job of the healthcare giver much harder.
Although planning a proper scheduling system takes work, your clients will be less grumpy and more appreciative of your care.
We all have limited time, so make the most of yours by using these tips to build a scheduling system that works for everyone.