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13 Veterinary Practice Management Problems Everyone Experiences (and How to Solve Them!)

28th July 2017

Managing a busy veterinary practice is a lot like playing with a ball of string. The more you dab at your problems, the more string unravels – and the more you chase it around, the bigger the mess you end up in!

But it’s okay. You’re not the first practice manager to experience disaster. And you certainly won’t be the last.

Below are 13 of the most common problems that you might encounter, if you haven’t already!

1. Unpaid Fees / Clients Request Credit to Pay for Expensive or Unexpected Charges.

A 2016 article from the BBC found that veterinary costs are rising by 12 percent per year, so more of your clients may need credit to pay for medical care their pets need. Consider contracting with an outside service, such as CarefreeCredit, that will extend credit to customers who need it. In order to enrol with a lender, expect to pay a small monthly fee in addition to a small percentage of each approved loan.

2. Clients Are Missing Scheduled Appointments

Ask for permission to text your clients appointment reminders and updates about their pets. Most people are more likely to notice and respond to a text than an email or phone call. However, for longer messages, email is still best.

3. Clients Regularly Request Emergency Refills for Routine Medications.

Start sending reminder texts to clients one week before their pets’ medications will run out. Be sure to include your office hours and phone number in the message so clients can easily call to arrange refills. You can also consider offering an online store, where clients order their medications and have them shipped to their homes.

4. Staff Members Forget to Complete All Duties Before Closing.

Help your staff remember important details by creating an opening and closing checklist. Ask the staff member who completes each task to initial beside it, and request that a manager reviews the list for completeness before anyone leaves.

5. Receptionists Spend Most of Their Day Making Routine Phone Calls.

Consider investing in an app uniquely designed for veterinarian offices, such as UK-based app PetDialog or US-based app Vet Boost. Once clients download the app, they’ll receive vaccination reminders, yearly physical due dates, treatment reminders and other important information. Some apps also help your clients track their pets’ medical information and progress towards health goals.

6. Surgery-Day Flow Is Often Rushed.

Better scheduling is key. Allow for 30 minutes of additional time for each three-hour surgery block to cover complications and other unexpected emergencies. Make sure other veterinarian team members are doing the prep work continuously to ensure the next pet is ready for surgery once the veterinarian has closed the existing patient.

If you’re a one-doctor practice, you may want to hire a relief veterinarian for part-time work during surgery days. You should also consider scheduling fewer routine surgeries on Thursdays, which is the day of the week has the highest number of emergency calls.

7. Your Practice Has Negative Online Reviews.

A few negative reviews can affect new client acquisition, so a proactive approach is key. If you find negative reviews, try to reach an agreement with the unhappy client. For negative reviews that remain, follow each online review site’s policies to provide a written response to the negative review on the site. Also, be sure to have active social media accounts for your practice, so you can positively connect with current and prospective clients online.

8. Clients Avoid Important Preventative Care for Their Pets.

Preventative care can be a costly part of pet ownership. To encourage the very best care for pets, try offering pet insurance to offset the cost of expensive dental care, medications and other necessities. You can also try offering wellness plans or outside credit to help offset the cost of vaccinations and yearly care.

9. You Never Have Time to Tackle Regular Office Management Tasks During Regular Business Hours.

If your practice is busy, it’s easy to spend the whole day helping clients without completing your office management duties. To ensure you have enough time during the workday, schedule a two-hour window each day to catch up on office tasks. If you find that you’re consistently interrupted, consider scheduling one full day each week for office work. Then, resolve to only help during emergencies on that day.

10. Your Veterinary Practice Needs More High-Quality Clients Willing to Pay for Good Care.

Look for ways to connect with clients who value the quality of care their pets receive. First, make sure that your staff is offering exceptional care that exceeds expectations. That should lead to positive word of mouth. Then, look for community events that will help your practice attract dedicated pet owners. Finally, consider a partnership with a quality pet store that attracts the pet owners you want as clients.

11. Your Practice Team Regularly Repeats the Same Mistakes.

The occasional mistake is unavoidable, but regular mistakes may require a different management approach. Make sure there are written procedural manuals for common tasks that clearly outline expectations, and use the creation of these manuals as a team-building exercise by soliciting feedback. Also, create a culture that rewards honesty and admitting mistakes. Encourage staff to admit mistakes, brainstorm with them to help avoid future errors, and allow them to overcome a single misstep without judgment.

12. Your Veterinary Practice Is Losing Long-Time Clients.

An online UK-wide survey found that 78 percent of pet owners were satisfied or very satisfied with the service they received. While it’s heartening to know your profession serves its clients well, this statistic also demonstrates that excellent service is a baseline requirement to retain customers.

To find out how well your veterinary practice serves customers, start surveying your regular and former clients via phone or email. For regular clients, follow up with a survey two to four days after a service is complete to get the most accurate information. Ask about all aspects of the practice, and always conclude with a request to rate the practice on a 1 to 5 scale. Track the results to look for trends of dissatisfaction from clients, and make changes as necessary. Also, be sure to contact clients who have serious concerns so you can address them as necessary.

13. Your Practice Has Consistently High Employee Turnover.

Proactive management can help you keep good staff members from leaving for other practices. To encourage staff, it’s essential to offer them professional opportunities to grow and expand their skill set. You should also be willing to address any valid complaints promptly and effectively. Being willing to sack poorly performing members with poor attitudes can also help you retain good staff who want to work with other professionals.

These answers to tough veterinary practice challenges can help you improve the overall success of your practice while improving client care. Experiment with these suggested solutions, and don’t be afraid to fine-tune any advise to fit your practice’s specific needs.