What to do When an Associate Vet QuitsJan 25 2024
It’s the nightmare moment that every practice owner dreads. When an associate vet quits, it throws the entire clinic into chaos. Suddenly, workloads double overnight, responsibilities like on-call hours go from difficult to grueling, and the pressure can end up driving a larger staff exodus. It’s both a symptom and a cause of larger issues in a clinic. When an associate vet quits, it throws all of the existing problems at a hospital into stark relief. So how can we respond? How do we make it through in the short term, and how can we rebuild over time? 1. Cut back for now It’s not an easy decision to make, but reducing the amount of cases that your clinic handles for a short period can help you to make it through the initial struggle without burning out the rest of your staff. This is especially important for small clinics, where losing one associate has significant impacts on the other DVMs. For one clinic that lost an associate to maternity leave, the response was prioritizing the most important cases. They cut back their overall operating hours slightly and blocked off emergency slots for urgent same-day concerns. This meant handling less of the smaller, day-to-day wellness appointments and nail trims, but it allowed the clinic to continue operating with a smaller staff and provide the most vital care. One other benefit here: prioritizing emergency cases allows your clinic to see the patients that will drive the most revenue. It might sound cynical, but this is an important consideration when an associate vet quits. According to The Vet Recruiter, six months of trying to hire an associate can lead to $200,000 in missed revenue. Anything you can do to recapture revenue in the meantime will be vitally important for your clinic during these rough months. 2. Bring in virtual tools Losing an associate drives up the amount of work for everyone in your clinic, but it has an especially intense impact on your remaining DVMs. For busy clinics where staff is already feeling overwhelmed, that can be devastating. The goal, then, is to find ways to fill in the gaps. The upside here: you’ll likely find that there are better processes for some of your existing operations. When an associate vet quits, it can reveal inefficiencies, and the resulting struggle can drive clinics to make long-term investments in their day-to-day procedures. It’s not a great experience, but the result is a healthier clinic. For your remaining DVMs, offering telemedicine can be one key way to streamline things. It makes simple rechecks quicker without taking up an exam room. DVMs can also use tools like Talkatoo to help with your day-to-day tasks. For the rest of your team, move any labor that doesn’t need to be done in-clinic out of the waiting room. Dr. Rachael Kuhn has found that using Jotform can be a great way to have clients complete check-in paperwork before they ever arrive at her practice. Similarly, if you can move any client communications off of the phones, email and live chat are generally more efficient and streamlined, since they can be handled asynchronously. We cover the concept in more detail in this post, but work that can be done virtually includes: Scheduling appointments Follow up calls Rx refill requests Triage Call back reminders Check-in forms Taking deposits/pre-pay While these steps don’t immediately impact the workload of your DVMs, they can help to reduce the amount of chaos within the clinic, and the knock-on effect is a more stable atmosphere overall. Simply put, it’s the difference between pulling away techs to handle phone calls and having them focus on supporting the doctor. Speaking of support staff… 3. Use your support staff efficiently For many practitioners, being told to better utilize their techs prompts an eye roll. Everyone knows that this part of the team shouldn’t be doing reception work. The trick is figuring out how to best utilize your staff within the context of your specific practice. As a starting point, your assistants should be doing nail trims, suture removals, and other similar appointments. From there, you can consider segmenting your CVTs to focus on different parts of your operations. One approach is to split this team into hands-on clinical work and client-facing work. The clinical side handles blood draws, diagnostics, anesthesia, and bandage changes. The client-facing side takes care of chronic illness rechecks (like thyroid issues, diabetes, etc.), nutrition consultations, new puppy client education, discharge, case triage, vaccine booster appointments (excluding rabies), and assists with telehealth. The goal is to clearly break down roles so your DVMs can then focus on sick pets, urgent appointments, and surgery. Prioritizing efficiency when an associate vet quits can make all the difference. Look for any redundancies and anywhere that roles lack clarity. Even small steps forward here will help your staff to focus on providing gold-standard care, rather than administrating day-to-day issues. 4. Rethink on-call A pet’s health doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule- should its access to care? After hours support is vital for clients, and it’s a non-negotiable for any clinic that wants to provide top-tier medicine. The problem is finding a solution that works for both your team and your community. On-call hours are exhausting and one of the leading drivers of burnout. It’s entirely possible that the struggle of balancing on-call with a day-to-day work schedule drove your associate to quit in the first place. So there’s a key tension here: more and more consumers are demanding support outside of a clinic’s usual hours, but finding DVMs that are willing to work on-call is really difficult. Luckily, this situation has a clear solution: GuardianVets. Our team of credentialed veterinary technicians support your community after hours, triaging cases and only contacting your DVMs based on your protocols. We make it easy to offer 24/7 care to your community. Even if your team isn’t on-call, additional support outside of your regular hours can help your clinic to retain clients after an associate vet quits, as well as making it easier to build appointments into your schedule. Remember: when an associate vet quits, your first priority should be supporting and retaining your remaining staff. That means working especially hard to build a healthy environment, even as things get intense. GuardianVets is the partner you need. Learn more here.
Burnout in Veterinary Medicine: A Work-Life Balance GuideJan 18 2024
One of the most exciting things about running the VetHealth Podcast has been the different insights that we’ve gained on fighting burnout in veterinary medicine. It’s the central question that we had in mind when we started the show. How can caregivers look after their own needs in a world that constantly demands more and more from them? Chances are you’re already aware that burnout is a major problem in the field- but you might not realize how pervasive the impact really is. Even as things have improved post-Covid, the outlook is dire and the issues is not limited to DVMs. Veterinary technician burnout is a huge concern and rates of veterinary compassion fatigue are extremely high. The personal cost is obvious- practitioners struggling emotionally, with many leaving the field. Collectively, a recent Cornell study put the economic cost of burnout in the veterinary industry at nearly $2 billion in a year. The question is how we can respond. This guide looks at both individual and organizational approaches to fighting burnout. Personal Steps for Fighting Burnout It’s that line you always hear before your flight takes off: make sure to secure your own mask before helping someone else with theirs. Fighting burnout in veterinary medicine starts with a range of individual habits and processes. Here are the major suggestions we’ve gotten from professionals across the field. 1. Let Go of Control Solo practitioner Dr. Shawna Garner recommends drawing clear lines for yourself to decide where your responsibility ends and the pet owner’s responsibility begins. It’s an important step to recognize that you’re not the sole arbiter of an animal’s health. In her words: “A lot of times, veterinarians will take on a patient personally… they want to do absolutely everything and if the pet owner can’t, they feel the guilt.” Long-term, it’s healthier to make your recommendations, then let it go. You’re only one stakeholder. If the pet owner can’t or won’t take the recommended steps, you’ve done your job. The rest is out of your hands. Similarly, Dr. Rachael Kuhn recommends taking a step back and delegating more. She sees DVMs taking on more of a supervisory role, allowing their teams to handle more day-to-day. That means taking the time to really train staff, but it allows for veterinarians to focus on the things that they truly need to do without taking on too much. 2. The Hardest Part is Getting There Whether it’s driving to the trailhead or going out to dinner with friends, a lot of the most meaningful ways that we can take care of ourselves involve an initial step out of the door. That can be hard after a long day in-clinic, or a long week of on-call. For practice owner Aliyah Pipal, it’s important to recognize that the initial step might sound unappealing, but that self-care is an active process. Intentionally building in time and space for the things you love to do will pay off in the long-run, even if it’s tough to take the initial steps. 3. Be Intentional About When You Work In particular, be intentional about when you shut off. Dr. Shawna does anti-social Sundays, where she steps away from social media and only uses her phone for calls. Dr. Cherice Roth takes time to get her hair done, knowing that it’s an hour where she absolutely can’t work. In-clinic, this can be as simple as fighting the urge to respond to an email on your lunch break, or it can be actually using your PTO to take a real vacation. Just make sure that you’re giving yourself the space to be off the clock. One simple way to decompress during the day can be to walk out to your car and give yourself five minutes to breathe. If you are going to answer work-related questions outside of your regular hours, consider offering that support as telemedicine and charging for your time. Essentially, the goal here is to segment your day-to-day life more clearly between the personal and professional. It's a valuable step toward recuperating during your off hours and avoiding veterinary compassion fatigue. 4. Know Yourself (and Be Selfish) Professor and former AVMA-president Dr. Lori Teller recommends recognizing and prioritizing the things you need to do to recuperate. An extroverted adrenaline junkie is going to approach self-care in a fundamentally different way from an introverted bookworm, and both approaches are completely valid. Whatever your methods for self-care, those might clash at times with other aspects of your life- i.e. the ways that your spouse blows off steam after a long day. It’s important to have conversations about your needs and prioritize the things that make you feel your best. If you need to take an hour to read in silence when you get home from the clinic, make that clear and build it into your weekly schedule. 5. Talk About Your Struggles Whether you’re dealing with veterinary compassion fatigue, exhaustion from on-call hours, or you’re stressed out from the daily struggles of practice management, it’s important to avoid bottling it up. Fighting burnout in veterinary medicine means prioritizing those conversations within your team, with a licensed therapist, via online veterinary communities, and/or with friends and family. Remember to check in with your staff as well! Even if it’s only for a couple of minutes between appointments, taking the time to talk and catch up helps everyone to feel better and can be useful for fighting veterinary technician burnout. One last thing to remember: as a leader in your practice, the ways that you take care of yourself will shape the ways that others in your practice look after themselves. Here’s how Dr. Roth put it: “I can’t keep sending emails at 3 o’clock in the morning because people are responding to them because they see it’s from me. That’s not cool.” Setting an example of a healthier work-life balance can have a ripple effect throughout your clinic. On the flip side- constantly overworking, refusing to take breaks, and responding to questions off-the-clock can build up an unhealthy culture. If not for yourself, build some breathing room into your schedule so your team knows to do the same. It's Still Not Enough Here’s the thing: these are all helpful actions to take, but they aren’t enough by themselves. Most clinics were built and structured based on a level of demand that just isn’t accurate anymore. Between surges in pet ownership and changing client expectations, small day-to-day interventions aren’t enough. Instead, fighting burnout in veterinary medicine means looking at the structure of our clinics and finding ways to simplify, streamline, and offload tasks wherever possible. Collective Steps for Fighting Burnout in Veterinary Medicine Again: the challenges that cause veterinary burnout and veterinary compassion fatigue can’t be solved just via individual actions. So what can we do to build healthier structures into our clinics? 1. Organize Your Processes A chaotic practice is a high stress space. It’s really that simple, and taking the time to create clear standard operating procedures for your team is a huge step toward a smoother workday. If you already have written SOPs, it might be a good time to take a look and see if they’re as clear and streamlined as possible. In particular, auditing your SOPs can be helpful for segmenting roles and recognizing where DVMs might be doing work that would be better handled by technicians. That wastes valuable time and can hurt the overall job satisfaction of your team- feeling under-utilized is a major driver of veterinary technician burnout. Similarly, you might find areas where your front desk could be more efficient or certain tasks could be offloaded. Speaking of which… 2. Use the Tools Available to You You don’t need to be extremely tech-forward to find a lot of opportunities here. Whether you look within the veterinary industry or at virtual tools more broadly, a lot of basic clinic operations can move more smoothly with the right toolset. On a simple level, Dr. Rachael Kuhn has found that texting templates allow for really simple, quick customer communications, winning back time for reception staff to focus on client service. Similarly, Jotform allows her team to take care of customer paperwork before a client even arrives at the clinic. Shawna uses Talkatoo for medical dictation services, automatically transcribing her voice into a script that can go directly into the PIMS. She also recommends Vetsource as a virtual pharmacy. Dr. Teller highly recommends GuardianVets for providing after hours care, saying: “The private practice that I came from- one of the best things they ever did was start utilizing GuardianVets… they use that after hours for triage purposes and I think that was a huge benefit to our clients.” On top of supporting your community, partnering with GuardianVets gives your team more nights off and less distractions. It’s a huge way that clinics can take care of their people- providing gold-standard medicine without the long nights. Remember: you don't need to fight burnout in veterinary medicine alone. 3. Manage Relationships with Clients Every DVM has stories about inappropriate times that they’ve been asked for veterinary advice. Your front desk staff has absolutely dealt with angry callers and frustrated clients in the waiting room. Issues are unavoidable (and a huge driver of veterinary compassion fatigue), but there is work that we can do day-to-day to alleviate some of the common problems. What we’re really talking about here is managing expectations and setting boundaries. It isn’t easy, but it’s vital to maintaining a healthier practice. At its absolute worst, this can end up looking like cyberbullying, and the AVMA actually offers a toolkit for managing your reputation. It’s a phenomenal resource that you can check out here. For more standard day-to-day concerns, there are a number of steps that you can take. First, build your operations such that no one ever needs to contact a client using their personal number. This is especially important for DVMs on-call. Once that boundary has been breached, it’s really hard to go back. DVMs can end up getting late night calls and texts anytime the pet owner has a concern. Second, figure out where you’re willing to be flexible and where you have hard boundaries and be consistent. Will you squeeze in one last case at 5 p.m. when the clinic is closing? If not- where do you direct someone looking for support at that time? Setting clear protocols for yourself and your team can alleviate some of the stress in these moments. Finally: when you need to, don’t be afraid to send a client elsewhere. If you find that a relationship is overly clingy or becoming toxic, recommend they move to another clinic. It’s not easy, but the worst relationships often end up taking more time and energy than any other. Don’t let angry clients take away the joy of practicing medicine. The future of veterinary medicine can be better for practitioners. It needs to be. These steps can be incredibly valuable for fighting veterinary burnout, and we’d love to know what other tips and recommendations you have! Reach out to us on social media: @guardianvets.
Buying a Veterinary Practice: 5 Things to Keep in MindJan 12 2024
Buying a veterinary practice is one of the most exciting (and terrifying) journeys you can take as a veterinary professional. It pushes you in ways that fall outside of your clinical training, and likely outside of your comfort zone. While it can be really rewarding, the journey isn’t easy. So what should you know when you decide to take that big step? This guide is a quick starting point to help you formulate your game plan and figure out the right questions to ask. Buying a Veterinary Practice: Go in Prepared! When I asked Dr. Shawna Garner for her advice on buying a veterinary practice, she laughed out loud and told me “be as prepared as you can.” Her experience was the opposite, and was often quite hectic. This process can be intense, and there’s a lot you won’t be able to expect. The goal, then, is to go in with as few question marks as possible. Luckily, there are a lot of resources available in the veterinary world that can offer some additional direction on the business side. VetPartners comes highly recommended, as do Veterinary Growth Partners and Ignite. A membership in VMG (Veterinary Management Groups) offers access to a large knowledge base, as well as professional development and discounts on purchasing. One more option here: there are a handful of veterinary practice management certificate programs available through different colleges (including Purdue) that cover the most important elements of running a veterinary clinic day-to-day. Buying a Veterinary Practice: Put Together the Right Team So the good news about buying a veterinary practice is that you’re not alone. Alongside the above resources, there’s the actual team that you’ll work with throughout the purchasing process. Just as a starting point, you’ll be coordinating with your bank, your accountant, and your lawyer. Those can be fantastic partners, as long as you find the right people. As a starting point, Shawna recommends meeting with a financial advisor to learn what type of loan you should take out. This advisor can also help you to determine if your financial goals are attainable for your region, how long it will likely take to be profitable, and more. The valuation process is particularly important, and it’s worth working with someone that has particular expertise in the veterinary field. A veterinary-specific CPA is your best bet. On that note… Buying a Veterinary Practice: Know What You’re Buying It’s really important that you understand a practice inside and out before taking the step of making the purchase. Even if you’ve worked at the clinic and are now moving into ownership, buying a veterinary practice requires an in-depth knowledge of every part of the operations. As a starting point: What is the clinic’s gross revenue? Does it have any outstanding debt? Is the equipment up-to-date and high quality? Are there any outstanding legal concerns? What is the current cost of staffing? The two most important documents here are the P&L (Profit and Loss Statement) and the Balance Sheet. One value to look at in particular: average daily transaction. You can compare this figure to baselines in your region to get a sense of whether the clinic you’re buying is leaving money on the table from the average appointment. This is a chance to start making improvements right off the bat. Buying a Veterinary Practice: Prepare Emotionally The first thing to know is that you’re in it for the long haul. Buying a veterinary practice takes time and energy on top of your normal schedule, and it can be exhausting. Deal fatigue often sets in as you work through a months-long back and forth. It’s normal to feel frustrated. It’s normal to feel stressed out. Here’s how new clinic owner Aliyah Pipal put it: “Just remember that there is a reason you want to buy the practice and don't let the process make you forget the reasons you said yes in the first place.” A few quick tips: Be prepared for delays! Buying a veterinary practice is a complex process. If you’re buying from someone you know, it can add weight to your relationship. Discuss the additional strain beforehand. Look for ways to reduce stress in your day-to-day life. Figure out what you need to do to blow off steam and do it consistently. Remember: business can feel very personal at times, and jobs in the veterinary industry tend to be emotionally charged. Find ways to step back and breathe throughout the process. Buying a Veterinary Practice: Retain and Attract Talent Regardless of your plans for the clinic that you buy, you’ll need great people. Of course, staffing in today’s veterinary industry is particularly difficult. Turnover is high, and retaining and attracting talent are both tough. You’re competing for a relatively small number of people with clinics across the country. Pay is the obvious starting point, but it’s not the only way to attract talent. The other side is offering a better work-life balance and a healthier clinic environment. After buying a veterinary practice, you have the opportunity to create new processes that can make your clinic particularly attractive as a workplace. For example: more and more DVMs are saying no to on-call, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your clients out in the cold. Using an external after hours service (like GuardianVets) can be a great way to provide support without demanding too much from your team. Our staff of credentialed veterinary technicians takes care of your community while you sleep. Think of it like this: you have the chance to offer a new beginning for your newly-purchased clinic. Improve your team’s quality of life from the word “go.”
4 Things to Look for in a Veterinary Answering ServiceJan 3 2024
What are your biggest frustrations day-to-day? What distracts you from practicing, keeps you up at night, and takes time away from patients that really need you? A veterinary answering service won’t solve all the problems that come with high demand, but it can help in key ways. Whether you represent an emergency room that’s feeling overwhelmed or a general practice burnt out from on-call, your phone lines are probably a major pain point. Maybe you’re just tired of leaving clients out in the cold after hours, and you’d like to offer support, even when you’re not there. The major problem is that veterinary hospitals have really specific needs, and working with a veterinary answering service means finding a team with complementary skills to yours. So what are the non-negotiable things that you need from a virtual veterinary receptionist? What makes a veterinary call center work for you? Here are the four key things to look for: The best veterinary answering services specialize in VetMed The best veterinary answering services follow your protocols The best veterinary answering services triage cases The best veterinary answering services provide great customer service 1) The best veterinary answering services specialize in VetMed One of the major issues that clinics face with a virtual veterinary receptionist is the lack of specific knowledge. One of our customers recently told us that their previous answering service didn’t know the word “equine.” That’s a major issue when they’re taking calls for you, and it results in frustrated clients. When a veterinary call center can’t answer basic questions, the call ends up getting kicked to your team. That’s a waste of your client’s time, and it negates any time-saving impact on your end as well. Here's the tl;dr: look for a veterinary call center that clearly showcases the expertise of its team. One easy test is to see if they know how to navigate your PiMS. If they don’t- run. 2) The best veterinary answering services follow your protocols How does your team handle a call about a vomiting puppy? Where do you direct toxic ingestion cases? What are your procedures for on-call? Even if they have specific veterinary knowledge, the problem with many veterinary answering services starts here- the inability to handle cases the way that your internal staff would. Generally, most veterinary answering services have a really limited set of functions that they’re able to perform. The question might be what specific set of roles you need a virtual veterinary receptionist for. At a base level, you’ll want a team that can help with: Scheduling Triage Administrative requests According to one survey, administrative tasks are the number one frustration for 40% of veterinarians. If you fall into this category, make sure that the veterinary call center you work with is able to actually alleviate that problem. Here’s an easy place to start: list out the tasks that you’d like to offload to an external team. For example, when they answer a call, they should be able to do x, y, z. The team you end up choosing may or may not be able to handle everything you want, but this process can help you to figure out how they might fit into your workflows. 3) The best veterinary answering services triage cases This is a particularly specialized skill, but it’s also incredibly important. For general practices, triage is especially important after hours. If you’re on-call and using a virtual veterinary receptionist, the goal is to cut back the number of calls coming through to the DVM. If your partner is unable to meaningfully reduce the number of cases you receive, then the money you’re spending is wasted. Similarly, if you're paying for a phone service for your emergency room and it's unable to divert non-critical cases, you're getting only a fraction of the value that the service should offer. Phone triage is the most important differentiator between veterinary answering services, because it’s the place where medical knowledge intersects with customer service. Easy test here: do they know what you mean when you bring up veterinary triage? Try going a step further, though: what is their philosophy about triage? Just as a quick example: GuardianVets’ philosophy is that the question is never if a patient needs to be seen. We provide triage to help the client decide how soon they need medical attention from a DVM. 4) The best veterinary answering services provide great customer service This might seem self-explanatory. After all, you’d expect that any business selling itself on customer interactions would at least be good at that. The thing is, customer service is as much a structure as a series of conversations, and long-term relationships are built when you nail both. Think about it like this: paying for triage in your moment of need is a terrible experience. Even if the service that provides support is gentle and welcoming and offers good advice, your client has just paid $50 to find out if they need to go to the emergency room to pay more money. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and can drive clients to look for a better option. If the best support that a veterinary call service can provide is directing your client to reach out to an external triage provider, then they’ve already failed. Similarly, if a client is calling to book an appointment or check in about an Rx refill, they should be able to handle those issues then and there, rather than needing to call back the next day. So yes, it’s important to know that your calls are being handled by a polite, compassionate team. It’s also vitally important that the support provided is structured to be as helpful and seamless as possible. GuardianVets is not a veterinary answering service We’re something better. When your hospital partners with GuardianVets, we create a virtual representation of your protocols in our software. That means we can follow your processes to the letter, whether for scheduling, deciding what kinds of cases you do and don’t see, and even dealing with specific medical concerns. Our team of credentialed veterinary technicians are trained to provide both gold-standard triage and incredible client support. This means that we can actively support your team in day-to-day tasks. We’re a virtual extension of your staff, rather than a hoop for your customers to jump through on their way to receiving care. With GuardianVets, an anxious pet parent can call your clinic at 2 a.m. and receive triage support from an expert technician without paying any additional fees. Our team will then work within your existing protocols to decide whether to contact the on-call DVM, send the case to the emergency room, or schedule the next-available appointment. It’s a more complete level of support than a virtual receptionist could provide. Here’s what we’ve seen again and again: clinics partner with a call center, then cancel after a couple of months because the additional support hasn’t meaningfully changed their workload. That’s because a veterinary answering service isn’t really the answer. We’d love to learn more about your hospital! If GV can't provide the support you need, we’ll be happy to direct you to the right service. You can schedule a quick consultation here.
How GuardianVets Drives Revenue for PracticesDec 28 2023
It’s one of the biggest questions we get when we’re talking to prospective clients: what’s the value? Can we afford GuardianVets, and will we see enough of a return on that investment? We get it. Partnering with GuardianVets is a phenomenal step forward for your customer experience and can be a lifeline for your team, but you have bills to pay and it can be hard to think about another expense. The thing is, for many clinics, GuardianVets is a huge revenue driver- providing both work-life balance and financial dividends. Let’s look at a few case studies of hospitals using GuardianVets to improve their bottom line. 1. Night-time appointments retained For general practices, after hours calls are often a huge revenue leak. A client reaches out with an urgent concern when the clinic is closed and gets an answering machine message directing them to the emergency room. For some cases, this is sound advice, and the result is what you’d hope: the patient gets the care that they need. For many others, though, the symptoms described really don’t necessitate a trip to the ER. That’s a huge waste of money for the client, not to mention a bad experience in their hour of need. Enter GuardianVets. Our triage philosophy: it’s not a question of “if” a patient needs to be seen, but “when.” When late night calls come through, our staff directs emergent cases to the on-call DVM or the emergency room, while turning non-emergent cases into appointments for the clinic. This drives revenue for your practice in a couple different ways. We recapture revenue that would be lost to the ER while providing a much better customer experience, which drives long-term loyalty to your hospital. Here’s what the process looks like in action: For a group of four hospitals utilizing GuardianVets for their shared on-call, GV triaged 2,841 cases and set 238 next day appointments in a twelve month period. At a conservative $200 average client transaction, that’s $47,600 in recaptured revenue over the course of a year. On the other side of the spectrum, GuardianVets handled 250 cases for a small, single DVM practice in rural Illinois in a single year, directing 58 back to the clinic as next-available appointments. That’s $11,600 in revenue generated. 2. The Hotline Let’s look at a radically different example. A regional corporate group worked with GuardianVets to build a hotline connecting a general practice, an urgent care, and an emergency room. The GuardianVets team directs callers to the appropriate care, keeping patients in-house. Essentially, the goal here was to create a centralized ecosystem of care within the group, and the results were astounding. In about five months, this hotline drove $87,075.65 in revenue from new clients. Broken down, that’s: $1,300.94 from new clients at the general practice $22,285.93 from pets seen at the emergency room $63,488.78 from pets seen at the urgent care GuardianVets was able to serve as a major tool for growth, delivering value far beyond the cost of the service. 3. Emergency room coverage For one emergency hospital in a mid-sized Virginia city, GuardianVets handles an average of 1,135 cases monthly. That comes out to about 140 hours saved for staff in-clinic every month. Another emergency and specialty hospital that partners with GuardianVets is able to offload 1,734 calls each month, winning back 217 hours for their team. On top of the actual time saved, though, GuardianVets is able to segment and divert cases, which results in better patient outcomes, as well as higher revenue. For example: imagine two callers. One patient is itchy and won’t stop scratching. The other has been hit by a car. By diverting the itchy patient away from the ER, GuardianVets keeps exam rooms open, ensures that volume is manageable, and prioritizes higher-value cases. Remember: GuardianVets provides 24/7 coverage, so your team can rely on our relief staff at all hours of the day and night. Partnering with us frees you up from the rat race of constant hiring by building out a support structure that can be available day and night without the hassles of sick leave and vacation time. These are only a few examples. Our clinics use GuardianVets to advertise to new clients, encourage customer loyalty, expand their availability, and much more. We’d love to chat about the ways that we can drive growth for your clinic!
Who Supports Your Clients After Hours? (And How?)Dec 7 2023
One of my clients posted the photo at the top of this page to my clinic’s Facebook back in 2016. It was a tongue-in-cheek bit; a joke about how Jax, the dog, would drag his owner to the vet because he misses us. It’s a photo that I’ve been looking back at recently. The context of the image is so important because it could very easily tell a very different story. It could be an image of a pet waiting outside because help was unavailable. It could be a client feeling lost and uncertain with nowhere to turn. I’ve been thinking about the accessibility of care and our responsibility to both our patients and our teams. How do we balance our need for work-life balance with customer demand for care outside of standard clinic hours? How do we look after the needs of both our teams and our clients? Who is there for our patients when we can’t be? In this article, I’d like to look at the different ways that clinics meet the needs of their clients and patients after hours and talk a little about the approach that I take at my practice. Do your clients want after-hours care? In short: yes. If your clinic offers on-call hours, you’ve probably experienced this demand first-hand. The health of a pet doesn’t follow a standard schedule, and for many people, the majority of the hours they spend with their pets are in the evenings. If they’re going to notice an issue, there’s a good chance that it will happen when your clinic is closed. For new pet owners in particular, after-hours care is a really important draw in choosing a veterinary clinic. They generally don’t know whether an issue is significant enough to require immediate attention, and that can make them particularly anxious about the health of their pets. We’ve all heard stories of first-time pet owners rushing to the emergency room after their dog vomits, or when their cat won’t stop scratching an itch. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that their veterinary team is available to answer questions is hugely important to this group in particular. What are the options? The landscape for after-hours care can feel pretty bleak. Generally, the pressure is on the pet owner to figure out their options in an urgent situation. Here are a few ways that a late-night call to your clinic can play out. 1. Voicemail only The client calls with an urgent concern and reaches a voicemail that directs them to the emergency room. This takes an already difficult situation and adds an additional level of stress. If they are calling your clinic, that likely means that they aren’t sure if the situation they’re dealing with is truly emergent. Now they need to assess how urgently the animal needs care and whether they can afford an expensive visit to the ER. 2. Paid triage If a client can’t reach you, they’ll likely turn to the next available care network. Often, this is a triage service that can assess the clinical symptoms and direct the client to the appropriate care. Here’s the catch: these systems are pricey and require an account. Best case scenario, the client pays a significant amount of money to learn that they don’t actually need to go to the emergency room. While these measures can help, they’re a bad experience for a client in their hour of need, and they largely exist outside of your relationship with the patient. 3. On-call Traditionally, the approach to after-hours care was simple- make sure that someone from your clinic is available to support callers during late-night crises. Offering on-call hours keeps treatment in-house, allowing for continuity of care for the animal, as well as retaining revenue that might otherwise be lost to the ER. More and more clinics are struggling to maintain on-call hours, though. It’s just too hard on staff and has been directly linked to higher levels of burnout, lower job satisfaction, and a higher risk of physical health issues. Many associates simply don’t want to work a full day in-clinic, then spend their evenings answering calls that may or may not be true emergencies. For the clinics that do offer on-call, there’s a high volume of non-emergent calls interrupting their evenings, adding to the strain. How I handle after-hours care To start, I’ll quickly summarize the major details about my practice. I’m a solo DVM and practice owner with a support staff of two vet assistants and one customer service representative. We’re open from 8-5 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and we serve a community both within our small town and the surrounding areas. That leaves a lot of time that I’m not available when my clients have concerns. That’s why I work with GuardianVets to provide care for my community when I’m not around. When my clinic is closed, our phones forward directly to the GuardianVets team. A staff of credentialed veterinary technicians triages the calls, directing truly emergent cases to the ER, while encouraging others to book the next available appointment. For GV, the question is never “if” a patient needs to be seen. Instead, it’s just a question of how soon the animal should come in. The benefit? First, my clients can always reach someone in their time of need, at no additional cost to them. They don’t need to create an account or access any external service- instead, they just call my normal clinic number. They have peace of mind in knowing that a team is there for them, even when I can’t be. On my end, it’s incredibly freeing to know that my clients have someone to turn to when they have questions. I don’t need to offer on-call, but they can still get access to care when they need it. Cases that would have unnecessarily ended up in the ER are instead retained as appointments in my clinic, which recaptures a lot of revenue that would otherwise be lost. As a solo practitioner, GuardianVets allows me to provide care far beyond what I’d be able to otherwise, meeting client demand without overwhelming myself and my team. If your clinic is struggling to balance client demand for after-hours care, remember that you don’t need to do it alone. Learn more here.