CPA, CVPM, MBA
Mira Johnson is the managing partner with JF Bell Group, a CPA firm serving veterinarians exclusively. Born and raised in Slovakia, she earned a master’s degree in financial management and accounting. She obtained her CPA license shortly after arriving in the United States. Mira became a certified veterinary practice manager in 2022. Her passion for technology has helped many veterinarians better their practice and improve their personal lives. To learn more, visit jfbellgroup.comRead Articles Written by Mira Johnson
In the face of staff shortages and overwhelming workloads, there’s no better time than now to explore ideas for overcoming inefficiencies in your veterinary practice. According to a June 2022 report from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, only 1 in 5 practices said their veterinarians were “very efficient” and couldn’t see anymore cases. Here are a few solutions that can improve productivity throughout your clinic and enhance the bottom line.
1. Counting Capsules
I remember the first time I tried to count a 1,000-pill bottle. It looked half full to me, but how can one be sure? I weighed the bottle, but what would that tell me? So then, I started: “One, two, three … 25 … 75.” The phone rang, and I jotted down 123. Back to counting. 312, or was it 314? What did Susan just say? Oh, gosh, do I start over? Aargh!
Counting pills is inefficient, time-consuming and, let’s face it, not always accurate. The solution? I discovered the Pilleye mobile app. It counts every pill. After installing Pilleye on a tablet or smartphone, lay the drugs flat on the countertop and take a photo. The app automatically displays the number of pills. Just like that! Type a description below the image (for example, “Cephalexin, 500 mg”), and off you go. Inventorying pills is done efficiently, accurately and fast. White pills on a white counter? No problem. Round or square? It works.
Similar apps include Pillphill and MediScanner. If you have a vast pharmacy, check out a pill-counting machine like the Vivid Rx.
An inventory count doesn’t have to consume an entire day. If you’re thinking, “Why should I count my inventory in the first place?” check out Practice Smarter columnist Mark Opperman’s advice at bit.ly/TVB-Inventory.
2. The Price Is Right
According to another VHMA survey, conducted in 2021, the average practice manager spends two hours a week buying supplies or supervising their purchase. That’s a lot of time.
Many of us are cost-conscious, and the prices of veterinary drugs and medical supplies are going up, as is everything else. But how much time do you take to compare vendor prices? If you’re not comparing, how much money do you lose by not buying the identical product from someone offering a cash-back discount? I recommend the Vetcove app, which checks the prices charged by distributors, manufacturers and diagnostic labs — from Covetrus, Patterson Veterinary Supply and Midwest Veterinary Supply to Pharmsource, MWI Animal Health and Boehringer Ingelheim. You’ll see who has the lowest price and what’s in stock and discover promotions and coupons.
Group purchasing organizations are another option. Learn more about them at bit.ly/TVB-gpo.
3. Shift the Burden
Three out of four practice managers oversee staff scheduling, the 2021 VHMA survey found. The task takes, on average, an hour a week.
Using the proper tools, you can easily delegate staff scheduling to an office manager or, in a bigger practice, a lead technician for veterinary technician schedules and the lead customer service representative for CSR schedules. While you can choose from many apps, let’s explore a few.
One I like is Homebase, an app that allows you to manage the schedule in layers. Only permitted people can see the draft version, and once the practice manager approves the schedule, it’s published to all employees with the push of a button. In addition, Homebase features an electronic timecard and can push notifications to smartphones.
You can create schedule templates in Homebase and copy them week to week. Team members can post their availability and preferred workdays. Vacation time is updated automatically when an employee requests it. Homebase also serves as a communication platform (like Slack) so people can chat, send messages and trade shifts.
Similar apps include Buddy Punch and Deputy.
4. Capture All Charges
With client payments, the options appear endless: check, cash, credit card, CareCredit, Scratchpay and many more. Throw in coupons or discounts and your receptionist has more work to do in the practice information management software.
If you’ve never sat in your receptionists’ seats, I invite you to try. They make the job look easy: Smile, acknowledge the pet, chat with the client, report the amount owed, ask about the form of payment, and print or email the receipt. It’s fairly straightforward. However, add to the equation a leash-pulling dog, screaming kids, irritated clients waiting in line, a technician asking a question and a doctor announcing a nail trim discount. Soon, chaos can ensue. Many mistakes happen when someone feels rushed or is disorganized.
Therefore, payment integration with your PIMS is a must. The fees will pay for themselves through better customer service and by saving time for your receptionists and the person doing your day-end closeout.
The common mistakes I see in a non-integrated clinic are:
- Typos: Instead of $289.89, the charge is $298.89. Did you look twice to notice the difference? Wrong numbers are easy to miss.
- Absent records: In a hurry, you typed the invoice amount into the payment processor, but suddenly, the phone rings, a co-worker commandeers your computer, or you’re asked to carry pet food to a client’s car. When you collect yourself, you forget to mark “Paid” in the PIMS. If the closeout person doesn’t catch the discrepancy, your bookkeeper might send a client letter demanding payment.
- Nonexistent payments: You recorded transactions in your PIMS but didn’t process the charges. This mistake is the worst for your practice’s wallet because clients never paid you, though the computer says they did. Hopefully, your daily reconciliation will catch the oversight.
Integrating your PIMS with your payment system can prevent such mistakes and eliminate a few steps. After completing the invoice, for example, you click “Pay.” The client swipes a payment card, and you’re done. Idexx Laboratories data suggests that payment integration could save a practice as much as 90 minutes of staff time a week, or almost 80 hours a year.
Some common pairings are ezyVet with PayJunction, Instinct with Gravity Payments and DaySmart Vet with Clover. Call your PIMS provider and ask about the vendors that integrate with your system. Each PIMS usually has at least one player.
5. An Idea About IDs
Pet microchips are easy to sell because everyone knows their value. However, when you process the sale, do you give clients a paper registration form and tell them to enroll at home?
When I presented the process to a pet owner, he waved his hand and said, “It doesn’t take that long.” Really? Ask your CSR, who likely will respond differently. Paper forms can be hard to read, and even if you switch to an in-clinic electronic record, your front staff’s time is quickly consumed.
Instead, consider free microchip registration through your PIMS. You’ll need to use the brand that integrates with your software. For example, PetLink integrates with ezyVet and Cornerstone, and HomeAgain ties into Covetrus Pulse. Ask your PIMS provider for more information.
Think of all the time your receptionist will save. And your clients will love you for it.
Those are a few ideas for improving your practice’s workflow. Redundancies, paperwork and poorly setup processes can be frustrating and hurt your bottom line, so be on the lookout for new ways to help your team provide a better client experience.
I also suggest rewarding employees who propose great time-saving ideas that you implement.
Veterinary Integration Solutions selected 30 top apps for veterinarians in the categories of general reference, small animal, equine and food animal. Check out the reviews at bit.ly/3bsvSeY.