With the COVID induced surge in veterinary demand pushing practices to the brink, it is somewhat unsurprising that veterinarians are struggling to handle the workload.
Combined with a global vet shortage and pandemic, the relatively inefficient way many clinics are operating has brought the profession to a breaking point.
For many practice owners, it’s a sink or swim situation. Unless they innovate and adapt rapidly, they risk drowning in a workload that’s beyond their means.
The problem isn’t that practice owners don’t have the capabilities to handle the workload, the problem is they don’t have the processes to.
Efficiency is key, and in this article, we’ll explore how you can improve your clinic’s efficiency – without leaving anyone behind.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology (and dogs) are a man’s best friend.
There are so many fantastic practice management tools out there that can improve veterinary clinic efficiency. Utilising such tools, and adapting them into practice life is key to increasing productivity.
Automating the appointment booking process (Vetstoria is one such example) can be a fantastic way to reduce call volume. Modifying booking systems to fit clinic needs (for example, creating an appointment session that is for non-urgent nurse visits only on a slower afternoon), is an easy way to fit systems to practice needs.
Additionally, having an email management system whereby practices can schedule automatic reminders for patients coming into the clinic can cut downtime talking to clients on the phone.
Tools, such as PetsApp now also exist to create asynchronous conversations, which are far more efficient ways of handling non-urgent enquiries.
Integrating booking, charting, diagnostic testing, billing and reminders onto one platform, can further increase both patient care and productivity.
Hire For Value Fit
Hiring staff that align with a practice’s values can seriously improve veterinary clinic efficiency.
Having a team that works well with one another, rather than one that works against each other, will save a lot of time. Small conflicts add up, wasting resources and precious energy.
According to a survey taken by Leadership IQ’s global talent management agency, staff attitudes drive 89% of hiring failures, while technical skills account for only 11% of hiring failures. This highlights the importance of finding staff members whose attitudes align with a practice’s values and mesh well within the team.
Regularly training staff so that everyone is working towards the same goals (and shared set of values) is also key for reducing tensions and increasing efficiency.
Systematically Identify Inefficiencies
Many clinical teams waste time on activities that generally don’t contribute to the wider functioning of the practice.
Identifying the areas that need improvement can ultimately save a great deal of energy and stress.
Consider whether specific staff need to be present during certain activities, or whether those staff members could be assigned elsewhere. The key here is to recognize what the main priorities are at the clinic, and how much energy is required for them.
It is also important to identify process pinch points and space usage. Availability of nurses and theatre ‘uptime’ are two such examples where things are done for historic reasons (that made sense 20 years ago) but should be scrutinised and challenged today.
The team is probably the most knowledgeable on what processes are working and what aren’t, so be certain to include staff in discussions before making changes.
Prioritise Staff Wellbeing
Rather unsurprisingly, there is a correlation between staff wellbeing and productivity.
According to a paper published by The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), several key findings indicated that there was a relationship between the mental and physical well-being of staff and their labour output.
But with a huge proportion of vets burning out (read more on this here) how can leaders possibly cultivate healthy practices for their staff?
Case studies have demonstrated that workplace wellness programmes can improve productivity – but results are dependent on certain conditions being met (such as whether the program is tailored well to the organisation and whether it is supported by senior management).
Practice management shouldn’t be afraid to spend time developing these programs. As ultimately, if planned and executed well, they will improve veterinary clinic efficiency in the long run.
It is becoming increasingly clear that trying to cater to all clients (as general practices do) is a losing play which has resulted in an overrun system that cannot cope with the pressures of such demand. Improving staff wellbeing by picking your clients more selectively has a collective benefit, as it improves staff efficiency and therefore patient care.
Whilst improving veterinary clinic efficiency is undoubtedly a challenging task, the more effort veterinary leaders put into improving operations, the better the results will be.
While many practices are currently operating in a way that makes shareholders happy (revenue and profit both look good!) the way this output is being achieved is frequently unsustainable. If left unaddressed, the medium to long term consequences of burnout and team collapse will pour very cold water on the profit party. Practices simply must recognise market realities and adapt to become more efficient and sustainable.
If veterinary leaders do not innovate, they risk demoralising and disenfranchising numerous veterinary professionals already struggling with the strain of practice life.
Increasing veterinary clinic efficiency, therefore, becomes not just about increasing revenue, but also about sustaining veterinary medicine as a whole – a collective win for us all.
Want to learn more about how to be a good leader? Check out the Leader’s Webinar. In the 60-minute masterclass, Dr Dave Nicol breaks down the common mistakes veterinary leaders make, cramming years of experience and expertise into one session.
To watch the complementary class, click here.
1-References: “Why New Hires Fail (The Landmark “Hiring For Attitude” Study).” https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35354241-why-new-hires-fail-emotional-intelligence-vs-skills. Accessed 7 Apr. 2021.
2-“Veterinary triage, bookings and payment … – VetSurgeon.org.” 12 Feb. 2021, https://www.vetsurgeon.org/news/b/veterinary-news/posts/veterinary-triage-bookings-and-payment-streamlined-by-pandemic. Accessed 7 Apr. 2021.