What one practice learned during COVID
Paperless transactions, curbside service and telemedicine lead to a safer environment for clients and hospital team members.
COVID-19 brought hard challenges to all of us in 2020. But as we plan for 2021 and beyond, it’s time to evaluate the adaptations that practices like mine made during 2020 that should carry on in the years ahead to ensure everyone’s success.
When the pandemic hit the United States, we all scrambled. Park West Vet, the practice where I work, saw a huge increase in business, with people stocking up on pet food and medicine, and rushing to get in veterinary visits because of the fear of a forced shutdown.
Like all veterinary practices, mine adjusted quickly and made critical adaptations. Here are three of the most important ones that we expect to make permanent well into 2021 and beyond.
Clients were nervous about contracting the virus by handling cash or touching surfaces, so Park West Vet immediately implemented policies designed to reduce the spread of germs at checkout, including:
- Encouraging contactless payments.
- Not requiring signatures.
- Forgoing paper receipts.
- Sanitizing payment terminals after each use.
When clients called to order food and medicine, the office staff processed payments using the credit card on file. We were paperless.
These changes were critical during COVID-19, but we also see long-term value. Research by PayJunction, a payments processor, found that using a customer-facing payment terminal and eliminating signatures and paper receipts shave about 45 seconds off of each transaction and improve the customer experience. A veterinary practice that averages 40 transactions a day can save more than 12 hours a month. Plus, an integrated solution means no more errors from double-keying invoice amounts into separate systems; 76% of respondents said keystroke errors have been eliminated.
The transition to curbside drop-offs and pickups was easy for Park West Vet thanks to our use of cloud-based software, credit cards on file and wireless headsets. For us, that meant using software that can be accessed from any browser-connected device, since our curbside greeters are armed with iPads and wear headsets. Employees can pull up client records and then radio instructions to staff members inside to pick up or return a pet and bring out a food or medicine order.
We can walk outside and have access to the entire system at our fingertips. And for payments, we just pick the card on file and check out the customer in the parking lot, triggering an immediate email receipt from the software. Many clients are impressed with how easy the process is.
We expect that once the crisis ends, about 50% of our clientele will continue to opt for curbside assistance.
Park West Vet installed cameras in two exam rooms, and the veterinarians use Zoom to host telehealth visits. The appointments are color-coded in our shared calendar software, which allows the doctors to easily identify video examinations. Clients prepay using the credit card on file, and an email is sent for client approval and remote signature capture. The payment is applied to the invoice on the day of the appointment. This streamlines the customer experience by eliminating the need for the receptionist to contact the client after the appointment.
No matter what happens next with COVID-19, we feel prepared to continue to serve our clients better with the added efficiencies of zero-touch payments, the convenience of curbside service and the ease of telemedicine. We feel confident that we are in better shape to face the future than we were before COVID-19.
Marian Rowland is practice manager at Park West Vet in Charleston, South Carolina.