This is a challenging time for veterinary practices worldwide. New regulations impact day-to-day operations and it’s unclear when and how a return to ‘normal’ will look like. In an uncertain landscape, those businesses who show ingenuity, embrace new technologies and shift protocols, are the ones who will continue providing exceptional patient care, whilst protecting staff.
We look at what veterinary practices can do to navigate these unprecedented challenges – the quick wins and long-term shifts. Despite the challenges, this is a time of great opportunity. There are wins on the horizon and now is as good a time as you’ll get to upgrade your practice’s systems, taking the team into the future.
Work from home – cloud-based remote access
Being able to access your practice remotely means being free to complete any administrative task offsite, such as scheduling appointments, clinical notes and patient follow ups. A cloud-based solution allows you access it anytime and anywhere, making it adaptable to any change your practice may need to make day-to-day. As long as you’ve got access to the internet, cloud-based software will continue to function as per usual on any device.
To cope with Covid restrictions specifically, you can set up a remote ‘call center’ for your reception team to work from home. Phone calls and emails can be routed directly to them where the team can access their cloud-based system remotely. Whichever way you decide to run bookings, you should have instant communications to your team using an internal memo tool.
Consultations can be remote telemedicine options
This could be the time to evaluate the use of telemedicine for the management and follow-up of established patients. While video conferencing technology and telemedicine are not new ideas, they have had slow uptakes in the veterinary market prior to COVID-19. As much as people understand the convenience and accessibility of telemedicine, customers have not been typically prepared to pay for online consults. Virtual consults have not been valued on same level as an in-person interaction, even though the cost of running the consult is the same for the practice. The demand is now shifting though, with COVID-19 and social distancing highlighting the benefits of virtual appointments for certain consultations.
From a business perspective, telemedicine is a no-brainer. You gain the ability to extend hours and spread teams – i.e. two single doctors on 6-hour shifts instead of two doctors sharing resource and space. Shorter shifts can make it easier for staff to manage social distancing and reduce exposure to the public. With extended hours, you're able to give your customers more options for time slots. As business owners are aware, examination fees are gateway to other procedures such as diagnostics, surgery, treatment, nutrition and preventative care.
An integration to the likes of Zoom brings even more efficiency as you can create new virtual appointments straight from your calendar. The consulting doctor can start appointments directly from the calendar and access appointment recordings in the clinical summary.
Social distancing can work
Establish strict infection control measures by keeping your waiting rooms as clear as possible. Have customers call you first to discuss the best way you can provide care to their pet. 'Curbside Check-Ins’ or ‘Clinic Drive-Thrus’ are an increasingly popular way to practice social distancing between staff and pet owners (here’s a good Owner Contact Guidelines Flowchart with more useful info on social distancing practices). Should customers need to bring their pet in, direct them to wait with their pet outside or in their car. When you’re ready to see them, have a member of staff retrieve the patient from the car for treatment and return.
With a modern practice management solution, a patient can be checked in and have their history filled out right in the parking lot. Customers can start this process by booking an appointment online and paying after it finishes through an integrated Customer Portal, all from the safety of their home.
The short-term wins
Here are a number of ways you can achieve this today:
- Arrange door to door delivery of medication and pet food, by getting customers to order online through your Customer Portal.
- For over the phone or video consults, you can utilize dictation services such as Dragon or Talkingvet to fast track note taking.
- Obtain digital signatures for consent forms and estimates. We have prepared a guide on how customers can electronically sign for a document you email them through ezyVet.
- Use contactless payments and customer-facing terminals to avoid the exchange of cash and receipts and so the credit-card remains in the hands of the consumer. A integration with the likes of PayJunction enables you to introduce a contactless payment processing feature, removing the need for signature capture.
Happy customers – how to keep them in the loop
After you’ve established new protocols, you’re ready to communicate to your customers and keep them up to date with any new changes. While it is important to share messaging on your business website or social media, direct messages are the best way to get your message across in this situation. Good veterinary software can generate mass (and personalized) communications to your existing client base through their preferred method of communication, whether by email, fax or SMS.
2-Way SMS capability means any client responses are captured within your system. With this tool, you can easily send your clients regular reassurances that you’re available for their pets.
If you're looking for an email tool that can support bulk email sending we recommend using MailChimp. Simply export the list of records you want to communicate with and import them into MailChimp.
Customisable template tools are another powerful way to help get any communication across to customers and referring vets. Customize your discharge, reminder and handout templates with tips on how your clients and patients can stay safe with COVID-19.
Crunching numbers – make the most of time available
Things may inevitably slow down for the weeks and maybe months to come, this can be a good time to plan ahead before things pick back up again. Perhaps you can undertake a full inventory count in the lead up to setting up an automated inventory order generation. Maybe there was an integration you wanted to implement? Or take a deeper dive into ezyVet’s reporting tools to analyse data that can help you make well-informed decisions on how you run your practice?
Take this ‘down’ time to focus on things you have been putting off when your practice was too busy to do so. If required, our consulting experts are here to assist on internal process evaluation or workflow re-configuration.
We're all in this together
The coronavirus has brought new challenges to healthcare and businesses worldwide. As we head into uncertain times ahead, we must leverage technology as much as we can to adapt to new ways of working and operating. ezyVet is committed to ensuring your businesses remain supported, now and into the future (COVID-19 or not).