Sherouk Fetaih is a vice president and the head of corporate strategy and advanced analytics at Idexx Laboratories Inc.Read Articles Written by Sherouk Fetaih
Jason W. Johnson
DVM, MS, DACT
Dr. Jason W. Johnson is vice president and global chief medical officer at Idexx Laboratories and the former dean of the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine. He is widely recognized in the veterinary industry as a visionary innovator, collaborator, expert communicator and team builder, and change agent. He serves on the North American Veterinary Community’s board of directors.Read Articles Written by Jason W. Johnson
As pets made their way from our backyards to our hearts and homes, the bond between humans and animals grew ever deeper. Our pets bring us joy, companionship and love, and we return the favor by investing in their health and well-being, just as we would for any member of the family. Naturally, pet owners today expect the very best veterinary care.
While the demand for quality care was rising before COVID-19, the pandemic brought with it a fivefold increase in the growth of pet ownership, driving the need to new heights. As a result, the landscape shifted in just a few short years, creating a new set of challenges for those dedicated to animal care, including long hours, burnout, and delays in appointments and treatments.
Veterinary professionals are healers at heart, and we know how much it hurts to turn away pets and owners in their times of need. Such constraints only compound the mental and emotional toll on teams stretched thin and struggling to keep up.
As we investigated alternative options to extend capacity and save time, it became clear that a comprehensive approach is essential — one focused on improving practice productivity and prioritizing the well-being of veterinary professionals and the animals in their care. Additionally, with Idexx estimating that practices must boost their productivity by up to 40% by 2030, we know that time is of the essence. Guided by this sense of urgency, our latest study, “Finding the Time: Empowering Veterinary Teams to Get the Most Out of Every Day,” delves into how veterinary teams can keep up with the escalating demand for care.
The first-of-its-kind empirical study grounds anecdotal evidence in data and provides tangible steps to help veterinary practices address capacity constraints. We started by analyzing clinics that thrived amid the complex conditions of the pandemic. We wanted to determine what they did differently. In addition, we examined over 4.2 million clinical visits, surveyed 786 U.S. practices, and employed in-person clinical workflow observations and in-depth profit and loss statement analyses to identify productivity solutions.
Our study analyzed which productivity levers could increase capacity and save time. Then, a multivariate regression analysis identified these levers and measured their effectiveness in minutes saved per visit for smaller practices (one to two doctors) and medium to large practices (three or more doctors). From the regression analysis, we developed the Practice Productivity Index, a data-driven framework to identify average clinical minutes saved and clinical revenue generated based on the recommended productivity levers.
The Practice Productivity Index reveals that clinics can save nearly 1,700 to 2,000 hours a year, the equivalent of adding one full-time veterinarian. We also included three Practice Personas to position practices on a scale of least to most productive — Engine Light On, Chugging Along and Well-Oiled Machine — and to help visualize the key attributes of each tercile.
In addition to shedding light on industry challenges, “Finding the Time” provides scalable strategies that practices can implement to transform their productivity across the dimensions of workflow, technology and culture. Here’s a closer look at the findings.
Improving Workflow With Strategic Staffing
It’s no secret that one of the most significant challenges practices face is staffing, as 82% of survey respondents reported they are looking to hire at least one veterinary team member. The study suggests that one solution for boosting efficiency and increasing capacity is adopting the most appropriate staffing model for the practice, as there is a strong statistical correlation between increasing the staff-to-DVM ratio and productivity gains.
But what if practices are unable to hire more staff? The study emphasizes the importance of empowering certified veterinary technicians to take on more complex, higher-valued tasks that they are legally allowed to do, freeing up a veterinarian’s time. The solutions might help practices provide the care that every animal deserves while also ensuring that veterinary professionals can achieve a greater work-life balance.
Improving Efficiency Through Digital Transformation
While many veterinary practices use a practice information management system every day, it is underutilized, which leads to inefficiencies. The “Finding Time” study found that 85% of respondents reported poor integration between their practice’s applications/platforms and PIMS.
However, there is a silver lining: Streamlining electronic recordkeeping, pet owner communication, scheduling and payments are excellent opportunities to reduce the staff’s manual workload and create a more efficient workflow.
For the veterinary industry, utilizing software and tools that seamlessly integrate and digitize the patient’s journey can improve productivity and enhance the level of service provided to patients and clients.
Cultivating a More Positive Culture
A practice’s culture plays an essential role in team productivity. While less than half of the respondents (48%) reported having a dedicated staff training program, continuous learning and development programs are proven to help promote teamwork.
Clear roles and responsibilities are also important. For example, something as simple as a morning huddle can be an effective way for staff to align on expectations for the day ahead and contribute to a more positive team dynamic.
Let’s Keep the Conversation Going
To move your practice up the Practice Productivity Index, take the first step and download the publication and self-assessment at idexx.com/findingtime. By identifying opportunities for improvement and implementing recommended initiatives, you can unlock more minutes each day, achieving greater efficiency and benefiting your practice and patients.
While the veterinary industry might face ongoing capacity challenges, the time to take action is now. Our study offers valuable insights and actionable recommendations for enhancing practice productivity and aims to start a meaningful conversation about how we can work together to improve the quality of care provided while promoting staff well-being.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to Idexx’s “Finding the Time” study, 65% of respondents indicated that technician appointments had a positive impact on productivity.