Practice Management News and Views from around the World – October 2009

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How Well Do You Listen?

From an article published online by the ‘Exceptional Veterinary Team’

Many people think they listen effectively and are surprised to find that others don’t think they listen well. Interestingly, assessments administered by the Center for Creative
Leadership (CCL) indicate that many leaders fall short on abilities that directly relate to their listening skills, including:

  • Dealing with people’s feelings
  • Accepting criticism well
  • Trying to understand what other people think before making judgments about them
  • Encouraging direct reports to share
  • Using feedback to make necessary changes in their behavior
  • Being open to the input of others
  • Taking another’s perspective; imagining someone else’s point of view

Signs that your listening skills aren’t up to par include:

  • Being driven to distraction: Multi-tasking is a liability when you are supposed to be listening and concentrating on what another person is trying to say. Do you accept phone
    calls, check email, shuffle papers, or otherwise communicate through your activities or gestures that you are not fully attentive?
  • Moving on: Many leaders are often impatient and mentally shift to what comes next, rushing the person through what they are saying. Although you may be extremely busy, it is
    important to take the time to hear someone out. How often do you think about your response rather than focusing on what the other person is saying? How often do you walk away or end a meeting before someone has had a chance to fully express themselves?
  • Problem solving: Many leaders feel compelled to be the expert and will offer a solution to a problem right away. Poor listeners give advice too soon. Do you suggest what should be done before the other person has fully explained his/her perspective?
  • Downplaying someone else’s feelings: Emotions are part of each person’s work experience. Poor listeners dismiss the feelings of others. They also miss out on important insights into what is going on among employees. Do you tell people not to feel the way they do? Are you at a loss when another person expresses emotions? Do you feel that another person’s opinion or feelings are less valid or important than yours?
  • Shunning silence: Many leaders make it a point to fill any silences, or they feel obligated to respond to every comment. These reactions cut short the other person’s time to think and react. Do you talk significantly more than the other person talks?

The ability to listen effectively is an essential skill for everyone, but few of us know just what it takes to become a better listener. Improve your ability to connect with others by learning the skill of active listening!

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Take time to connect at Vetpol

by Jeremy and Caroline Johnson

In business as you get older you become conscious of two important things….firstly how little time you’ve got and secondly the fact that for both social and business reasons
you should spend more time networking…because that’s really how you get jobs, referral business, business growth generally. And whilst we know we should network and connect
to others outside our immediate sphere of influence the dilemma is that we don’t have enough time!

At we have a new facility that allows the whole veterinary community to connect from experienced clinicians right through to front-of-house staff such as
receptionists. Unlike Facebook we screen each individual user joining the site…and we don’t ask you to give up the copyright in your images or whatever else you post…but like
Facebook you can communicate with others upload photos and get to know others in the veterinary community at a time that suits your life and fits in with your own time-commitments.

Having screened out the spammers, purveyors of porn and spreaders of malware we apply as few restrictions as we can get away with. We know that even in business people mainly want to network for social reasons, to make their working lives more enjoyable and because they want to belong to supportive networks. And we are not the only couple in the veterinary world who met their partners in the work place! Yet we don’t ban use of the site for more overt business purposes…many people in the veterinary want to connect to other people who can help them.

It happens that leaving aside the attractions of a few glasses with friends at VPMA or SPVS congress our principal interest is veterinary business. But we struggle to draw the
distinction between ‘business topics’ and for example trends in surgery such as ovariectomy versus ovariohysterectomy as these are the bread and butter of veterinary practice; or
medicines deregulation and twenty-four-hour cover as such matters disproportionately affect both the viability of large animal veterinary business as we knew it twenty years or
thirty years ago and future opportunities for large animal clinicians. And still many in the veterinary community don’t manage to look at the “bigger picture” issues discuss their collective view and commit them to the policy debate because they have practices to run: They struggle even to find time to do CPD and connect to others who can help them deal with veterinary business as we find it today.

So get on-line, register and connect to the people you want to connect with. And from time to time we may ask you to contribute to a poll so that your view is not lost in the

You can click here for further information and to register at VetPol

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Pets Provide Better Human Health and Wellness and Reduce Healthcare Costs

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) has raised awareness of the value of pets, and pet health insurance, by designating September as National Pet
Health Insurance Month.

Pet health insurance provides a financial safety net for pet owners, and often gives them the ability to provide a higher level of care to their ill or injured pets. Every
day, pet health insurance spares pet owners the excruciating decision to limit veterinary care for beloved pets, or even to euthanize them, due to economic limitations.

As pet owners consider health insurance for their pets, they might think of it in the context of their own health. Research shows that humans with a puppy, kitten, dog, or
cat in their home enjoy a measurable improvement in health, and in fact spend less on their own healthcare.

Documented studies on human health suggest that pet ownership bestows the following benefits:

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Higher survival rates from heart attacks
  • Significantly lower use of general practitioner services
  • Reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis in children exposed to pet allergens during the first year of their life
  • Better physical and psychological well-being for seniors

According to the research by the Delta Society and others, there is not a significant social or economic difference between people who do or do not have a pet that adequately
explains the differences in health outcome, leading to the conclusion that pet ownership itself is the primary cause of the positive benefits.

The Delta Society is a human services organization dedicated to improving people’s health and well-being. The mission of Delta Society is to help lead the world in advancing
human health and well-being through positive interactions with animals.

“At a time in which our society is looking for treatment alternatives to complement western medicine, research is consistently demonstrating that pets can have a profound impact on people’s physical and emotional health. Delta Society has focused on this single concept since 1977. We are excited to see more healthcare professionals and other leaders embracing the fact that pets can be a cost-effective approach to improving people’s health while enriching their lives,” stated Lawrence Norvell, President and CEO of Delta Society.

According to NAPHIA Executive Director Loran Hickton, “As the human healthcare debate continues, some have asked, ‘why provide pet insurance when so many humans do not have health coverage?’ First, we know that the uncertainty of the current economy makes pet insurance critically important for the financial well-being of all pet owners. Many pet owners simply don’t have the disposable income to cover emergencies or even routine pet health care, and each day, pets face economic euthanasia. In addition to financial benefits, now more than ever it is essential to share the human health benefits of pet ownership. Our pets are part of our families; they make a difference and contribute to better health and lower human healthcare costs. To people without pets this may be hard to understand, but most pet owners corroborate the research that indicates having a pet improves life and a sense of wellness and health!”

You can click here to visit the North American Pet Health Insurance Association website

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NCVEI and VetPartners collaborate to offer benchmarking tools for referral practices

Citing growing need in the veterinary profession for data about emergency and specialty practices, the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) and
VetPartners announce the release of financial and operational metric benchmarking tools designed specifically for referral practices. This is the latest in a series of
benchmarking tools developed by the NCVEI.

The NCVEI was founded by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
in 2000. Financial support is provided by the founding organizations and Merial, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Veterinary Pet Insurance, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Bayer Animal Health,
and CareCredit. In addition to the funding provided by NCVEI, the referral practice tools are made possible through generous grants from Pfizer Animal Health and VetPartners.

NCVEI and VetPartners collaborated on the design of the questions used in the tools. While there is a large quantity of data and resources available for general practices, there are currently no meaningful comparative metrics available for referral centers. “Having data to compare your practice to–whether you are a general practice or a referral practice–is vital to the management of your practice,” explained Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA, Vice President, VetPartners.

It is difficult to gather benchmarking data for referral practices because their size, shape, and business models vary greatly. The goal of this project is to define factors that are associated with economic success.

Two sets of tools will be available–one set for the referral practice and one for board-certified specialists and emergency doctors. “These tools encompass significant financial and operational metrics that referral practices need to be reviewing in order to manage their businesses more effectively and more profitably,”
said Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CEO of NCVEI.

The practice tools include data such as revenue per doctor, compensation, benefits, management techniques, and number of referring DVMs. The specialty doctors’ tools include
information on production, compensation, and benefits categorized by specialty. Phase two of the referral practice tools will include a profitability estimator and fee comparisons. These additional tools are expected to be released in September 2009.

The tools can now be accessed at Comparative results will be available on the NCVEI website as soon as information from a minimum number of practices has been
provided. These results will be updated daily as more practices provide data, offering the most timely, immediately accessible benchmarks available.

Coinciding with the debut of the referral practice tools is the relaunch of the NCVEI website. Improvements to the look and feel and the navigational elements of the website will
improve the overall user experience. Additional improvements will be released during the fall of 2009.

The release of these new referral practice resources will provide specialty and emergency practices with effective tools to utilize in the growth and development of their practices. States Dr. Felsted, “Our goal is to provide referral practices with the same level of data and benchmarks as general practices, but tailored just for them. And our hope is that armed with this information, referral practices will continue to grow and improve, even in these economic times.”

You can click here to visit the NCVEI website

You can click here to visit the VetPartners website

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Client Relations – Get the most out of your practice’s retail space…

Extracts from VetsonLine website

Every day waiting rooms in veterinary practices are full of people prepared to spend money on their pets.

Most have already resigned themselves to the fact that the visit will cost them money before
they come through the door, and many feel more than usually motivated to spend on their pets while the subject is in the forefront of their mind or actually sitting next to them.

There is a captive audience tapping its feet and looking around while waiting for an appointment or for an invoice to be calculated; prime impulse buying opportunities.

Merchandising is simply presentation. The way that your stock is displayed can enhance or detract from sales.

Many manufacturers and wholesalers offer display stands that present products attractively and are designed for ease of use by the consumer as well as for the best use of space
for the retailer.

In waiting rooms, space is often an issue, so a careful product range choice coupled with a practically designed display stand is a necessity. Ensure that the display is easily accessible and not hidden behind a counter; the best way to attract clients to buy is for them to be able to approach and handle the products without having to ask a member of staff for assistance. This also works in the favour of your busy reception staff.

If displays are logically laid out, easy to access and straightforward to use, clients will select products for themselves without your staff having to actively sell them.

Small add-on items such as dental chews often benefit from counter top display next to the till, where clients settling their bill can pick them up at the last moment.

The visual impact of a display is vital for attracting interest. Regularity and continuity are important visual stimulators. Colour and shape add interest: good packaging is designed to be visually attractive as well as functional, practical for display and cost effective, so notice the way that the stock you are buying is packaged and how it can best be displayed within the space that you have got.

Make sure that you have a coherent layout so that clients can find their way from toys, to collars and leads, to behavioural products, to healthcare products. Bear in mind also, that some positions in your display will be more prominent than others. “Eye-line, buy-line” is a cliché which holds true, and in a waiting room setting where your clients are often seated, you may have more than one eye-line to work with. You can use this to influence sales: either of best sellers, to maximise the potential of these already desirable items, or to highlight products that you wish to sell more of.

Of prime importance is the cleanliness and tidiness of a display. Consumers expect to purchase pristine products; anything less will stay on the shelf.

The display also needs to remain full. A half-empty display gives the impression that the items remaining are leftovers; not worth looking at.

Most of the suppliers’ reps are trained in merchandising, so ask for their input.

© Wolters-Kluwer 2009

You can click here to visit the VetsonLine website

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Veterinary School: What They Don’t Teach

from an article published online by the ‘Exceptional Veterinary Team’

If you are a practising vet with years of experience under your belt, you probably remember some of your most exciting (or terrifying!) “firsts.” As a new veterinarian, I recently gave my first examination–an emergency appointment for a mixed breed dog that had been bitten by a rattlesnake. Although I was confident in my medical skills, the way the client’s tear-filled eyes locked onto mine as I explained the effects of snake bites, the various treatment options available, and the overall cost made me more than a touch nervous.

After all, veterinary school taught me how to treat an injury but not how to deal with distraught pet owners.

Following our discussion, the owner elected to pursue treatment and so the pet stayed in the hospital for the next 3 days. I personally followed up with the owner each day and gave her a status report on how the dog was doing, where we were in the treatment process, and why I felt her pet should stay longer. She came in every day to visit with her pet and I sat with her at his cage discussing how things were going. In the end the dog went home with a wagging tail, a happy owner, and a paid bill. Yet the situation could have gone in a completely different direction if I had handled my communication with her differently. What if I never called to update her on her dog’s progress? What if I hadn’t been able to explain why the treatments I suggested were so important to her dog’s health?

This situation highlights an issue that is often overlooked in veterinary medicine. As students, we are supposed to use our medical knowledge to make a seamless transition into
clinical practice. Although our profession is one where communication is at the heart of every treatment and procedure, this is often the least explored or discussed topic in school. Perhaps this explains why so many new doctors struggle with the client/doctor aspect of veterinary medicine. Developing your own communication style and learning how to approach clients are skills that are crucial to your success and happiness as a veterinary professional. Everyone has a different style and any given style will not work well with all clients. But it is important to take every interaction you have with a client as a learning opportunity–not only for learning medicine, but also for strengthening your communication skills.

I recently received a thank you card and muffins from an owner and pet. This interaction was a successful one!

If you still don’t believe that these “soft skills” are important then read on. Did you know that poor communication and a lack of interpersonal skills are the number one reason veterinarians are reported to regulatory bodies? When clients were asked to rank qualities in order of importance in choosing a veterinarian they chose “kind and gentle” and “respectful and informative” as the top 2 valued criteria.1 These are strong statements by clients!

When you walk into an exam room, realize that clients are looking to you for support, comfort, and reassurance. Communication is at the very heart of those services. Without
effective communication, you cannot expect your clients to have confidence in your clinical judgment, which will make it difficult for you to treat their pet or convince them to
comply with your discharge instructions.

Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice (volume 37, January 2007) is a great resource that centers on effective communication in veterinary practice. It has
a number of good articles regarding communication techniques that can be used by veterinarians to learn how to improve owner compliance, help with end of life discussions, talk
about money, and covers other important issues. A new veterinarian can easily get caught up in learning about medicine, but I feel it is my duty to my patients to also
continue to strive to improve and embrace effective communication skills with pet owners. After all, none of my patients will be paying the bill, making the decisions, or voluntarily
taking pills. I need to convince the owner that all of these are necessary for the health of my patient.

You can click here to visit the Exceptional Veterinary Team website

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Veterinary Specialists in Private Practice

The 6th Annual Conference of the VSIPP will be held at the Roosevelt Hotel in the revitalised city of New Orleans, Louisiana, February 2 – 5, 2010

The agenda includes seminars, round-table conversations, panel discussions, workshops and plenty of time for networking

The VSIPP conference has become a date which serious veterinary specialists won’t miss. Sponsors include some of the biggest names in the industry, including: CareCredit, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Pfizer and Marshfield Laboratories.

VSIPP’s annual conference provides attendees a forum to share information and communication that lead to a better understanding of the challenges they face in large group and small/solo practices while serving the human-animal bond.

As the only non-scientific conference for specialists in the veterinary industry, the sessions include information regarding marketing and promotions, corporate governance, legal issues, operations as well as human resource issues. Two post conference specialty tracks will be held February 6, 2010. These tracks will focus on solo/small specialty hospitals and emergency and critical care practices.

VSIPP attracts specialists, practice owners and hospital managers worldwide.

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