Practice Management News and Views from around the World – November 2011

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Top 3 Ways a New Veterinary Website Impacts a Practice

from an article by Dr. Michael Warren and published in the Veterinary Equine Business blog by Dr. Robert P. Magnus

I have asked a friend of mine, Dr. Michael Warren, to write a blog about the positive impact a good webpage can have on a vet practice. When I asked him for a bio he supplied this following, “Dr. Warren is a practicing veterinarian and certified online strategist. As Managing Director of the website development company DVMelite he writes, speaks and consults internationally on how the veterinary industry can improve client communication and engagement through online media.”. All that is correct but what he didn’t mention is that he is concerned, as I am, about the veterinary profession. His website efforts are part of his desire to help vet practices survive and prosper in these challenging times. This is first in what, I hope, are several blogs on the value on websites. Thanks Michael.

New Client Acquisition

Arguably the most important, and definitely the most dramatic, way a new or improved website can impact a veterinary practice is in the area of new client acquisitions. After implementing a beautiful marketing driven website, on average we are witnessing new client intakes increase up to — and sometimes in excess of — 30% just 1-2 months after the new websites go live. That’s pretty spectacular, but why is this happening?

In our opinion, the jump in new client acquisition can be attributed to two different yet related factors. The first is due to the increased visibility the practice now has online. A properly programmed website (which is surprisingly rare) will appear towards the top of the page on search engines, thereby placing the practice on the radar of clients who are searching for veterinarians online (and the vast majority are). Where a practice was for many prospective clients invisible online, it is now easily found.

The second way a new/improved website can boost new client growth is via an increase in word of mouth referrals. This initially puzzled us since at first glance there is no direct correlation — in fact, ‘word of mouth’ and ‘online’ referrals seem to be two distinct sources. What we ultimately came to appreciate was that word of mouth referrals rarely happen in isolation these days — it is by far the norm that people run everything past ‘google’ before taking action. Therefore, word of mouth referrals plus a new beautifully designed website equals increased new clients — a winning combination.

Increased Client Engagement

The typical clients response to a beautiful new website is invariably positive. Client’s suddenly begin utilizing the online communication
options through booking appointments online, refilling prescriptions online, and reading the practices blog. Inevitably within the first week an old client will walk in through the door and say “Great new website Doc!”.

Further, clients are now reading all about the practice’s veterinarians, staff, services and are becoming engaged in ongoing articles which the practice is publishing on their blog. If you are a practitioner you will immediately sense the subtle change in how clients look at and feel about you. I felt a real connection one day as I was sitting down for lunch in a local cafe when a lady approached me and said “You’re the veterinarian right? I read all about you on the website!”. This is exactly the sort of client engagement that practices should seek to cultivate, and a new website is the way to do so.

Increased Staff Engagement

An interesting spinoff from a well developed website is how it is embraced and utilized by practice staff. We have found that staff let out a sigh of relief when introduced to a clean, easy to use interface, and very quickly rally behind the promotional opportunities a well designed website affords. Whether it’s to write pet related articles along their areas of interest or to post cute clinic pictures, staff become engaged. It is personally very rewarding for team members to see their name published under an article on the website — furthering their sense of pride and participation within the practice.

A veterinary practice’s website is the cornerstone for all communication and marketing efforts. Through implementing a smartly designed, programmed, and supported website, everything becomes so much easier. From new client generation, to social media participation, to client communication, & even to leadership within the community, everything is enhanced. I always like to compare it to the Star Gate; once you step through the portal, you can never imagine trying to grow a successful practice without it.

You can click here to visit the Equine Vet Business website

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Getting down to business

American Veterinary Medical Association acts to remedy profession’s economic woes

The AVMA is undertaking a long-term, multimillion-dollar initiative to develop a strategy for reversing a troubling economic decline evident
throughout much of the U.S. veterinary profession.

The Executive Board of the Association has approved a package of proposals totaling more than $5 million to aid a profession plagued by low numbers of client visits, skyrocketing veterinary student loan debt, and questions over whether the supply of veterinarians is outpacing demand for veterinary services.

A fiscally sound profession has been a strategic goal of the Association since 2008 and is articulated in the report of the AVMA 20/20 Vision Commission, which was charged with developing a vision for the Association. The scope of this new initiative and the commitment of considerable Association resources signal a new willingness among the AVMA leadership to take a more active role in influencing the veterinary profession’s economic future.

A component of the AVMA economic initiative is a pledge to make a reality of the vision statement “Veterinary medicine is a personally and financially rewarding profession.” To that end, the Executive Board established a $5 million fund in support of plans and programs to strengthen the U.S. veterinary profession’s economic foundation.

As soon as possible, a veterinary economics division will be created within the AVMA to manage economics programs and a veterinary economic strategy committee will be formed to advise the Executive Board. The Economics Vision Steering Committee will be continued with a new mission of forming partnerships to advance the AVMA’s economic strategy.

That the veterinary medical system suffers from a number of fundamental problems has been recognized for years. In 1999, the KPMG study on the U.S. market for veterinary services warned that the highly fragmented veterinary delivery system threatens the profession’s economic viability. The imbalance between low salaries and high veterinary student debt was also one of a “group of serious problems” the study identified.

Subsequent surveys and research have found many of these problems persist today. In some cases, they’re worse. Recently updated data from the AVMA show the mean veterinary educational debt among the 90 percent of fourth-year students with debt in 2011 was $142,613, a 6.5 percent increase from the previous year. Excluding salaries for graduates pursuing advanced study, the mean starting salary for a veterinarian in 2011 was $66,469, a 1.3 percent drop from 2010.

You can click here to visit the AVMA website

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Record Number of Entrants for Pet Health Counsellor Initiative

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Becky Hussey, a vet nurse from Hollybush Veterinary Group in Bridgnorth, entered The Royal Canin Pet Health Counsellor (PHC) of the Year Award last year, but was not selected as a finalist. This made her even more determined to win this prestigious award and all of her hard work has paid off.

Becky Hussey has been announced as the winner of the “2011 Royal Canin Pet Health Counsellor of the Year Award”. Second prize was awarded to Sian Ferris from The Smart Clinic in Cardiff and third place to Lana Goulding of Claremont Vet Group, Bexhill-on-Sea.

Becky’s entry this year detailed the many activities she undertakes, in addition to her daily duties, at the practice where she works. These comprise of various client pet clinics including “Choose a pet” advice service, client competitions, numerous advertorials to help raise the practice group’s profile and lots of charity fund-raising. She was also part of the team whose hard work resulted in the practice being granted RCVS Accreditation.

The PHC of the Year scheme has been running for over sixteen years and this year saw a record number of entrants for judge and well-known pet behaviourist Sarah Heath, BVSc, MRCVS, to assess. As part of the initiative, participants receive specialist training of a wide variety of topics, highly relevant to veterinary nurses’ growing involvement in veterinary practice. The original aim of the PHC programme was to help veterinary nurses to improve their knowledge and skills to enable them to be even more confident when advising clients and developing clinics. Whilst this aim still holds true, a veterinary nurse achieving PHC status is now widely recognised as a valuable asset to a practice, as well as significantly enhancing personal development.

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VetPartners Announces Inaugural Practice Development Webinar

Creating Breed-Based HealthCare Programs for Your Practice

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When: Thursday, December 8, 2011 – Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST. You can click here to check the time in your part of the world

Sponsored by: CareCredit

Who Should Attend: Veterinary practice owners, Associates, Managers, Techs, Nurses and Receptionists.

Benefits of Attending: New marketing programs to encourage more visits.

Resources and Tools: Websites that attendees can access for information to help them build their programs.

Presentation Abstract:

With the recent reports indicating decreasing trends in veterinary visits, practices must find ways to further engage their own clients and create programs that make them stand-out in their communities. What has been used in the past to encourage clients to bring in their pets doesn’t seem to be working any longer.

Currently, consumers are seeking a more personalized and customized experience for themselves whether it is at a hotel, a retail store, or
from their healthcare provider. Breed-based healthcare programs put a personalized spin on the more mundane puppy visits, annual exams, and
routine well care.

Imagine creating a year by year communication and education program that focuses not only on the basic well care needs of a pet but also the breed specific predispositions. When a Cocker Spaniel comes in for a care, you can talk about glaucoma, dry eye, thyroid conditions and a plethora of conditions that Cockers have a high risk for. The program creates an annual and lifetime program based upon well care and breed specific conditions.

It takes work but it is an effective way to give clients a feeling that they are your only client and that you have built a program just for them and their pets. Oh, and by the way, you can create programs for mix breeds too.

Learn what it takes to build these programs and succeed in implementing them.

Presenter Dr Peter Weinstein – Dr. Weinstein attended Cornell University before moving on to the University of Illinois to receive his
DVM. After graduation, he worked as an associate for few years before opening his own practice. While managing and practicing full time, he attended night school to receive his MBA from the University of Redlands. As a result of this additional business knowledge, he was able to move his practice, expand his practice and then sell his practice to one of the corporate consolidators. In September 2000, Dr. Weinstein stepped away from clinical practice to work full time as a practice management consultant and to run Veterinary Practice Consultants Brokerage®, a veterinary specific job placement firm that assists veterinarians find new associates and new associates find jobs. Last year,
Veterinary Pet Insurance hired Dr. Weinstein to oversee their Claims Department as the Medical Director.

How to register

You can click here to visit the VetPartners website

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The New Leader

from an article by Judith E. Glaser published in the Gifted Leaders website

Here are five actions any leader can take to develop a workplace where all members contribute:

  • Celebrate speaking up. Ask questions to draw people out. Make it easy to speak up, express a point of view, celebrate success, and push back on authority in a constructive way.
  • Make conversation easy. Make open dialogue a way of life. Provide coaching about how to have “difficult conversations.” Honest talk is not mean talk — it’s about having candor with others, and candor provides feedback vital to creating mutual success.
  • Coach with developmental questions. Developmental coaching is not based on “constructive criticism” but rather on developing “constructive foresight,” which looks to the future and focuses on what people can do differently to create better results. To develop foresight, ask questions like: What have you learned from this challenge? or What would you do differently in the future if you could do it again?
  • Ask questions and wait for answers. In most meetings, declarative statements outweigh questions by 85% to 15%. Leaders who focus on learning how to craft great questions help people think about issues in new ways and enable their team’s wisdom and insight to emerge. Learning to be comfortable living with questions creates a culture where people can think out loud, make new connections, and think outside the lines about how they might approach a challenge.
  • Ask yourself some questions too. You need to ask yourself some key questions every day: How do I shift from a telling leader (dictating) to and asking one (developing)? What actions can I take to support a mentoring and coaching culture?

You can click here to visit the Gifted Leaders website

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Shifting the Client Experience

Maryle Malloy

Recent studies show there is a decline in patient visits. The primary reasons? Clients want more quality time with their veterinarian – and they perceive services as too expensive. What is clearly evident is that pet owners around the US are sending the same message.

How can you shift the client experience? Perhaps you’ve streamlined the visit process in your office by packing your schedule with 15-20-minute
appointments and monitoring the performance of your medical staff to maximize efficiency and revenue — but WAIT! The studies show that clients want more interaction with their veterinarian, and they want to pay less. Close personal interaction with clients and presenting information so they understand why you recommend certain procedures and services, takes time. Can you actually give them what they want and still work efficiently as well as increase your revenue?

You can, if you figure out what your clients want and how to give it to them without a loss of revenue to you. You can, if you identify all the systems – how you do things – that are missing or dysfunctional in the client visit process.

When you fix the systems surrounding the entire client experience, the veterinary support staff will work more efficiently and more productively

Why? They understand — and can be held accountable — for their individual role in the “client visit process.” Implementing these systems changes will allow your veterinarian(s) to spend more quality time with the client, providing the education and rationale for recommended services, thus ensuring greater client compliance. Your staff will become more engaged as they have participated in the change process, so everyone wins, the practice, the client and the pet.

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