12 ways to sustain your practice
Tough times need tough people. This is a great time for caution tempered with common sense.
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The economic challenges, pandemic challenges and panic response have all come together to impact your veterinary practice. Fast and immediate action can help mollify the worst of things.
Here are some actions you can take to keep the doors swinging, the phone ringing and the cash flow flowing:
- Be a leader. Take care of your physical and emotional health, your financial health, and the physical and emotional health of your team. Protect everyone from disease from the outside and from one another. Help your team understand the potential financial impacts of COVID-19 and the possible recession through open and honest communication. Let them know what you are doing to keep everyone working and about outside resources that may be available. Peace of mind today will be rewarded with long-term employees tomorrow.
- Become present on social media, daily or more often, promoting the safe practices that you are following for client safety, staff safety and, most significantly, patient safety. Announce new services such as virtual care (telemedicine) and curbside care. Reassure clients that COVID-19 is not a threat to their pet.
- Don’t avoid the concerns; address them directly with solutions. For example: Create a pseudo-valet service by meeting clients and their pets in front of your practice or having them text when they arrive so you can give the “coast is clear” sign to come in.
- Institute a no-waiting policy, at least not in groups. One person in the lobby is fine; all others need to be in the exam rooms. Another options is to consider limiting clients to just one room in the practice with chairs set six feet apart and having team members move pets from that room to the exam rooms or the back.
- Convenience is queen — or king. Pet owners don’t want to come in and pick up food or drugs anyhow. Offer to deliver them or mail them at no extra cost, or better yet, hook up with an online pharmacy linked to your practice for cost and convenience on prescriptions and food. This is especially helpful on refills.
- Senior hours. Make your practice available to high-risk clients by limiting access to those over a certain age during specific times of the day. Or better yet, set aside house call hours to go visit them at home. Another option would be to open these times to anyone who wants a little less contact with others — you probably have many clients with underlying disease that you don’t even know about.
- Telemedicine. Working within your state’s practice act, integrate telemedicine for your existing clients and for follow-up ongoing cases. You don’t need to get fancy (although you can). You just need a phone and a system for documenting and charging for your time. For the safety of the clients and the health of the pet, this can be an easy option. Use it in the cases you feel comfortable with. If a client needs to be seen in person, do it.
- Online education. Using your website, social media, email and push notifications, have your practice be the go-to source for correct information. The AVMA is a great place to start for accurate info.
- Pet pickup and delivery can help pets that have a need get to you and a pet owner who is hesitant to go out.
- Financial insecurity is scary. Talk to your insurance company about business interruption insurance. Talk to your bank about delaying loan payments, preferably interest free. Plead with your vendors for delayed billings. Apply for a line of credit (aka rainy day fund). It’s raining outside right now. Put money away, if possible, in a reserve fund for times just like now. Conserve cash! Postpone major purchases, reduce inventory and review the necessity of all expenses.
- Don’t forget your patients. Limiting access to care or services can put pets at risk. People want service and care, and they are worried about their pets. Be careful about limiting accessibility until you have all of your team on board as to how you want to handle things.
- Keep up with what’s going on. www.avma.org is good place to start.
Tough times need tough people. Leadership. Honesty. Integrity. Team first. Patient first. Client First. Safety first.
This is a great time for caution tempered with common sense.
Dr. Karen E. Felsted founded PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting. She spent three years as CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. Dr. Peter Weinstein owns PAW Consulting and is executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association.
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