Practice Management News and Views from around the World – August 2014

People are Amazing

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What keeps veterinary practice owners and employees up at night?

New data shows where practice owners, managers, associates, and team members feel the pinch of working in a practice.

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) recently conducted a survey to find out what keeps you awake at night—yes, you. The results provide insights into the industry topics that will require attention over the coming months and years. To find out what is keeping you up at night, an electronic survey was administered to attendees at three conferences – and prompted respondents to rank their top professional concerns.

Respondents identified their position by job title and selected from a list of 22 issues the three that were the most perplexing or stressful or interfered with their ability to perform their jobs. The issues on the list were: profit margin, cash flow, budget management, gross income, staff training, staff recruiting/hiring, staff scheduling, staff relations, associate contracts, wages and benefits, associate behavior, maintaining policies and procedures, inventory management and controls, employee theft/shrinkage, marketing efforts, client retention, legal and regulatory compliance, strategic planning, exit strategy, IT, medical records, burnout, and other.

Among all respondents, the top concerns in order of importance were:

  • Staff training (31 percent)
  • Staff scheduling (28 percent)
  • Staff relations (27 percent)
  • Profit margin (26 percent)
  • Burnout (22 percent)
  • Client retention (22 percent)

Specifically among practice managers and office managers, the key issues were: staff training (42 percent), profit margin (24 percent), cash flow (13 percent), and staff relations (12 percent). The concerns of this group are reflective of their job responsibilities: achieving financial health while maintaining employee satisfaction.

Among associate veterinarians, client retention was the chief concern, with 30 percent of respondents selecting this issue. In today’s economic climate, determining how to attract and retain clients is a priority for any business. Other key issues among associates included: staff relations (27 percent), staff training (24 percent), and wages and benefits (20 percent).

The issues identified by hospital administrators reflect their broad responsibilities and their focus on both personnel and financial oversight. Concern about staff relations (36 percent)—a priority among this group—is followed by issues related to profit margin (24 percent), and staff training (15 percent).

For veterinary practice owners, profit margin, which was selected by 47 percent of respondents, was the chief concern, followed by cash flow (28 percent), and client retention (27 percent), all issues related to a strong bottom line.

This snapshot of the concerns among veterinary management professionals highlights the “pinch points” within the profession. According to Christine Shupe, VHMA’s executive director, the association’s goal was to provide a good baseline analysis of where the profession currently is and what changes are needed. The results indicate that for any practice to function effectively, the needs and issues of a diverse group of stakeholders, those holding various positions within the practice must be addressed.

You can click here to visit the VHMA website

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To the grumpy old vet that doesn’t want to change

From an article by Geoff Talbot published in the VetAnswers.com.au blog

When you hear the word “BLOG” do you think something is wrong with the toilet?

I want to take you back to 1964:

Imagine a man and a woman, Cyril and Ethel, in their early 20’s, highly conservative, lovely, good, young people, dressed in the finest plaid; newly married high school sweethearts, deeply in love with each other.

However, Cyril and Ethel do not like the changing landscape of the world around them. There is so much immorality, huge technological changes like color television, the musical revolution, space travel, etc. It seems as though the world is about to spin dangerously off its axis; it just isn’t safe any more. Late one night (before 8pm) Cyril sits his new bride down and he tells her that he has a wonderful new plan.

In his wisdom, Cyril has decided that he and Ethel will not leave the safe confines of their 3 bedroom love nest until all the madness in the world around them settles back down. They won’t change with the world –they will wait until the world acknowledges that the old way was in fact a better, more righteous and productive way of living.

Fast forward 50 years and as far as I know Cyril and Ethel are still living inside that small, wooden bungalow on Same Street. They look out the windows sometimes, watching in horror as cars flash past at lightening speed. And when they hear the roar of airplanes tracing across the sky, they clasp their wrinkled hands together and huddle under the duvet, praying that God will save them from this terrible and tyrannical world. He never does.

I know what you are thinking. “What on earth does this story have to do with running a Veterinary practice?”

Everything.

As the owner of a veterinary practice you may not like the changing landscape of the world around you. You may hate the fact that your technicians and nurses are spending time on Facebook and Twitter. When you hear the word blog you wonder if there is something wrong with the toilet. This digital revolution is just all too much for you!

Maybe you’re feeling the urge to move inside and lock all the doors. After all, what is wrong with simply running your veterinary practice the way you’ve always run it?

I will answer your question with another question.

“Are you prepared to let your fear of something new destroy your veterinary practice?”

Let’s look at the real issue: fear of change. The truth is unless you embrace the change, you will be overcome by it. Little by little, one by one your clients will drift away.

  • Harsh? Yes.
  • Unfair? Maybe.

Nevertheless it is your reality.

But don’t worry I am about to give you some good news. This news may surprise you.

“The new way of running your veterinary practice is actually the old way of running it.”

Don’t Let The Technology Confuse You.

The new way of growing your veterinary practice is actually very much akin to the old method of marketing and promoting your business. When I am working with practice owners and veterinary clinic teams this is the place where we always begin.

What am I talking about?

Your website, your social media profiles, your email accounts, your mobile phones — these are conduits for building relationships with your clients and potential new clients.

Your role as a service provider hasn’t changed at all, you still must provide a great service to your clients. You must not only provide a high standard of care for the animals, but you must also build trusted relationships with their owners; they must like you, they must know that you care. And when they do, they will share good stories about you with others.

The sharing of stories now happens predominantly via technology. It happens on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter and on any other social media channel that your clients care to use.

The word of mouth messaging that used to happen on the village streets is now happening on the internet. Why? Because that is where modern day people are spending their time.

If you don’t believe me, just walk into a cafe or coffee shop in your local area and count the number of laptops and smart phones being used.

Why You Need To Be Part Of The Conversation.

In North America, studies have revealed that 80% of consumers trust a business or organization more when their leader has a recognizable presence on social media.

When people are looking for a vet clinic in today’s world, one of the first places they turn to is the internet. They google search, they jump on Facebook, they look on review sites, they read your blog. The truth is, if they don’t find you, they either don’t know about you or they do not trust you.

Whether you like it or not, there is a conversation about you taking place online and the only way to influence this conversation is take part in it.

But I am only touching the tip of the iceberg, I am only looking at the negative, I am playing to your fear. There is an INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY for you to grow your practice in ways that you can’t even imagine using technology and the social channels.

Let me finish by painting a very different picture to the one with which we began.

The Actual Story Of Cyril & Ethel

At the beginning of this article, I told you that Cyril sat Ethel down and told her that they were going to stay inside their “three bedroom love nest” until the world settled down. Well, actually I was lying, Cyril was afraid of all the change, but he decided not to shrink back from the changing world, he decided to master it instead. This is what he told Ethel:

“Ethel our world is changing and we must change with it. We cannot hide or we will atrophy and die inside this little old bungalow.”

And so Cyril and Ethel did the unthinkable, they went out and they bought the very first color television that anyone had ever owned in their neighborhood. Every Friday night they they threw open their doors and their whole street poured into that tiny little bungalow and watched Perry Mason strut his stuff in living color.

Everyone in their town still remembers where they were when Neil Armstrong took that one small step in 1969. They were at Cyril and Ethel’s.

Ethel, made an astounding $45 from selling lemonade and cupcakes when Armstrong took that giant leap. She and Cyril used that money to jump on a plane and they flew across the Pacific all the way to Australia, where they made lifelong friends that they still have to this day.

That decision not to hide, that decision to embrace change, changed their lives forever.

If you are brave enough to embrace these new technologies, if you will open yourself up to the new possibilities that they are offering your veterinary clinic then you will begin to tell a story that no one will ever forget.

The choice as always is yours.

You can click here to visit the Vet Answers.com website

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Selecting Veterinary Practice Management Software

From an artice by Meg Nash and published in the VeterinaryTeamBrief online magazine

Whether you are opening a new practice, replacing your practice management (PM ) system, or buying one for the first time, selecting a practice management package is one of the most important decisions you will make.

Choosing a practice management software package from the more than 50 currently available is a challenge.

Amy Birk, practice administrator of Kirwin Veterinary Services in Milford, Ohio, is heading up the search for her practice. “As we are looking to get away from the old paper records, I have been looking closely at the SOAP features, how well we can integrate the lab results into the records, and client communications (email reminders). Most importantly, the software needs to be easy for the staff to use.”

Deciding whether you want to run your practice management system through your own server or purchase a web – or “cloud” – based package can make the buying process even more complicated. Cloud-based software, which is gaining in popularity, is usually less expensive to purchase than site-based packages, and maintenance and upgrades are handled by the software provider—particularly attractive features to busy practices that don’t have the luxury of having an IT expert on staff. Amy Birk notes that her practice is interested in a cloud-based PM package. “It is time to get a new server, and we can save $10,000 [if we don’t need to buy] a new one. I’m sure other companies are in the same boat of needing to update very expensive computer equipment.”

A cloud system does not require a “hot site” backup for disaster recovery; data are safely stored in cyberspace. Cloud software is also easier to use when mobility is required, allowing the software to be used directly from a smartphone or tablet without needing to sync data to the server when returning to the clinic.

Web-based practice management software is not without its downside. Most importantly, (especially if you aspire to run a “paperless” practice) when the internet is down, your practice management software is down too. If you are located in a rural area where outages are frequent or if you are not able to obtain a high-speed bandwidth connection, an on-premise package will be a better option.

Also keep in mind that you will have to give up control of upgrades and backups when using web-based software. In worst-case scenarios, your practice can lose data if a software provider goes out of business.

Features

When choosing a practice management package, it is important to look to the future. It pays to narrow down your requirements so you don’t end up paying for more features than you will use or not taking advantage of those elements that will save your time and allow your practice to thrive. Amy Birk says, “As we are looking to get away from the old paper records, I have been looking closely at the SOAP features, how well we can integrate the lab results into the records, and client communications (email reminders). Most importantly, the software needs to be easy for the staff to use.”

Demonstrations

Once you have narrowed down to 5 or fewer packages, it’s time to test the software. Larger companies will send a representative to your site to demonstrate how the software works and point out its features. You will be able evaluate the package’s full potential, both medically and from a business perspective. Whenever possible, however, take advantage of the opportunity to use the package on a trial basis. Many vendors offer a 15- or 30-day trial. “I definitely make use of all the free demos no matter how time-consuming.,” Amy Birk notes. “I need to get a feel for how the system works, what it looks like, etc. I also talk to other clinics that are using that software to see how they like it and what they don’t like about it.”

Team Effort

Everyone on the team should have input on what system to purchase. Birk says, “There is collaboration with the owner, doctors, and support staff on what they are wanting. How many times have I heard ‘I wish the software would let us do X?’ I want them to be happy with it. They are the ones who have to use it. Once I have narrowed down the choices, the doctors and staff will be involved with the final decision.”

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Team Brief website

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Vetpol celebrates by getting a handle on industry’s habits

VetPol logo-July-2014

Participants will be able to opt to receive a report on the findings to help benchmark their business and identify new opportunities. One lucky participant drawn out of the hat by the closing date of 30th August will also win a FREE on-line shopfront from Vetmart, Vetpol’s sister company.

As Vetmart celebrates its first birthday, it has become clear that businesses are keen to get active online, with the site hosting nearly 1,300 listings of ‘everything animal’ and over 200,000 views to date, offering a place on-line where businesses can be stronger together. An impressive 72% of UK adults are regular internet users and 82% buy online,1 so a top priority for many businesses is tapping into that market.

There is another side to the coin though, with some businesses questioning whether Twitter handles are really all that and asking if we had got it right when the only ‘Tweets’ to be heard were those of the pet canary.

Caroline Johnson, Director of Vetpol and Vetmart says we need to understand the barriers to full participation and what businesses really want to achieve, “The Internet offers fantastic opportunities to boost exposure and accessibility, while still being able to communicate core values. But how many feel confident of their ability to do so? Over the years Vetpol has learnt so much about using the Internet effectively and we felt it was time that someone looked at the collective experience of animal related businesses to help define a way forward.”

You can click here to visit the VetPol website

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Google Listings Fraudsters Target Local Businesses’ Google Listings

From an article by Kelly Spors published in the American Express Open Forum

Hackers have found a new and troubling way to hurt small-business owners.

Many local businesses rely on their Google Maps search listing to let people know when they’re open and where they’re located. Now, cyber criminals have realized they can manipulate those listings—sometimes with devastating effects.

Serbian Crown, a now-defunct Great Falls, Virginia restaurant that served French and Russian delicacies, closed down in 2013 after 40 years of business after suffering a major slump in customers. The proprietor, Rene Bertagna, says that he eventually discovered that someone had hacked into the restaurant’s Google account and manipulated its listing to suggest it was closed on the weekends. “A customer called me and said, ‘Why are you closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday? What’s going on?’” Bertagna told Wired.

By the time Bertagna discovered the Google business listing’s problems, it was too late, he says. The business, which was not on a high-traffic street, relied heavily on its Google business listing to bring in customers. He had already laid off much of his staff and business had fallen off too much to recover once the erroneous listing was discovered. Bertagna thinks a competitor manipulated the restaurant’s Google listing to sabotage his business. He’s now suing Google in federal court in Virginia, with his lawyer claiming that Google has ignored the problem of Google Maps hacker fraud.

Google denied the claim in a filing last month, according to Wired: “The Serbian Crown should not be permitted to vex Google or this Court with such meritless claims,” it stated.

However, other local small businesses have experienced similar issues. Barbara Oliver & Co., a jewelry store in Williamsville, New York, had its Google Maps listing changed to “permanently closed” in 2010, even though the store was open. The listing change mysteriously occurred at the same time that someone flooded its listing with fake negative reviews. “We narrowed it down as to who it was,” owner Barbara Oliver told Wired. “It was another jeweler who had tampered with it. The bottom line was the jeweler put five-star reviews on his Google reviews, and he slammed me and three other local jewelers, all within a couple of days.”

Earlier this year, nearly 2,000 hotels had their Google+ Local listings hacked and had the link to their hotel website replaced with a link that directed visitors to a third-party hotel booking service. After being alerted of the hotel listing hijackings, Google fixed them and restored the original links, according to Search Engine Land.

A big part of the problem, Wired reports, is that Google Maps’ lists are essentially “crowdsourced,” making it easy for people to manipulate them using Google’s Mapmaker and Google Places for Business. The recent manipulation of businesses’ listings is a good reason for businesses to carefully monitor their Google listings and ensure no information is changed for falsified.

You can click here to visit the American Express Open Forum

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