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

A message from Veterinary Practice Magazine

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15 Outrageous Pet Owner Requests of Vets

From an article By Andy Roark and published on the VetStreet.com website

As the man pulled off his shirt and draped it over his dog, I remember thinking, “I hope my technician comes in right about now. No, wait. I don’t.”

The appointment had been uneventful until I informed the dog’s owner that his dog had a heart murmur. The man replied, “If you think he’s got a heart murmur, listen to this!” and off came his shirt. While the request was odd, I have to admit I was intrigued. It turned out the man did indeed have a much more impressive heart murmur than his dog. In fact, he was just a week away from surgery to have the heart defect corrected.

As he retrieved his shirt and his dog, I couldn’t help but notice a look of almost paternal pride on the man’s face. It was as if he was considering his dog’s mild heart abnormality and thinking, “Yep, that’s my boy.”

While I’m glad that I got a chance to bring this little family closer, the incident did cause me to stop and consider some of the more unusual interactions between pet owners and veterinarians.

Above and Beyond

As a profession, veterinary medicine is one in which we are used to going to great lengths to meet the needs of the families we serve. Being asked to make a house call, visit a sick patient outside in the owner’s car or stay past closing time are all quite common in our line of work.
Still, even in this business, while we strive to make pets and their people as happy as possible, there are some requests that strike us as a bit much. On my Facebook page, I asked veterinary professionals to tell me some of the most bizarre requests they’ve gotten from pet owners. Here’s what they reported.

  • We had a client who wanted us to neuter her dog instead of spay her because it was cheaper.
  • A client was boarding a dog at the clinic and requested that we keep a photo of the family in the kennel with the dog. And not only the photo, but a frame that you can record messages into. The family requested that we play the message at least six times a day.
  • We once had a woman who wanted us to take a look at her duck because it “wasn’t swimming.” Her chicken was fine, but it sure wasn’t a duck!
  • We had a client claim that the reason her cat kept getting sick was because it was urinating on mothballs and that the urine added to the mothballs was making meth, so the cat was high.
  • I had a client ask for a copy of my license so she could open up a veterinary account at a distributor to get “flea medicine.” She promised not to buy controlled drugs.
  • I was asked if I could provide a list of veterinary medications that could be used by humans and if I could help procure these medications in case of a doomsday scenario. (This client is a “prepper.”)
  • We were asked to perform a private cremation for a cat’s tail after he had a tail amputation. We did it, too!
  • We had a client bring in a cat to be neutered. He asked if, prior to the surgery, we could place his cat in a kennel with a female cat for one final … . Our sharp receptionist politely responded with, “I’m sorry, sir, but we no longer offer that service.”
  • We had a client insist we refer to her pet as “Mister” until he got to “know” us. He would then let us know when it was OK for us to use his given name.
  • A pet owner asked for testicles from his dog back (after the dog was neutered) so he could keep them in a jar at his office. When his daughter was old enough to date, he planned to bring the boyfriend in the room and explain what happened to the last boyfriend who didn’t treat her well.
  • Umm, we’ve had more than one person lift a shirt to show us a rash.
  • A client asked the male doctor to dress like a woman and wear a wig because the dog didn’t like men.
  • We had a client come in the other day for an exam, worried about the two large lumps on their “female” dog’s underbelly. Turns out the dog was not a female after all!
  • New clients requested that I cover the windows and turn out the lights when they arrived for their pets’ appointments — because they were vampires. (They ended up being wonderful pet owners.) New staff members thought I had lost my mind when I informed them of this client’s special needs.
  • We had a client ask if she could hold her kid’s birthday party in our hospital during work hours.

You can click here to visit the VetStreet website

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Look out! – The “Busy-Trap” is back

From an article by Alan Robinson and published in the VetDynamics blog

I speak with many veterinary practice owners and managers and find that for many, paradoxically, they are in danger of over-stretching themselves, their time and their resources and then running out of money during 2014 as we now see a period of increasing business and consumer confidence.

The really good thing about the recession has been the ability of practices to Slow Down because of less clients and spend more time with their clients, practice good medicine and generate real value and revenue per client and patient.

We ask our clients work on the 85% Rule – if you are above 85% capacity in consulting and operating for a prolonged period you will stress your vets and team and result in a catastrophic reduction in clinical and performance quality. Even now, there are business consultants proclaiming “footfall, footfall, keep busy, more, more….”

For goodness sake – busy-ness does not equal profitable business – it just means you are busy!

While everyone may be celebrating the increase in work and footfall, this can have major consequences and catch out even the most experienced managers by putting serious strain on clinical, financial and operational systems manned by depleted, stressed teams.

History has certainly shown us that during periods of economic recovery, we have seen many small, medium-sized and large practices over-stretch themselves physically and financially and simply run out of energy, motivation and working capital. The busy-ness of ‘doing’ overwhelms their capability to manage and create value for their clients and therefore, income.

By definition this is called ‘the busy-trap’; when a business runs beyond its capability to produce value for the client and as a result, decreases efficiency and performance. This is most evident in service based businesses when they struggle and fail to commit to more staff and equipment to deliver the services that are in demand due to rising sales. This will typically result in stress, poor performance and negative cash flow as inadequate systems, processes and human resilience struggle under the burden.

Traditionally, each time the economy recovers from a recession or downturn, a large number of businesses fall victim to the busy-trap or over-trading and end up failing in what should be good times, despite having survived years of bad.

Do not be one of these businesses, take these 5 tips today:

  • Have a clear Vision (what are we trying to achieve) of your future and a clear set of Values (rules to act by) to fall back upon. Your Vision is the sky above you and your team Values are the earth under your feet.
  • Know your Numbers. Prepare a financial model, comprising of 12 monthly integrated balance sheets, profit and cash flow projections to reflect differing levels of growth so as to be able to identify budgetary controls, additional working capital needs and planned development. Know on a monthly basis your practice financial and performance analysis and benchmarks.
  • Get a Health Check-up. You’re vets. You wouldn’t dream of Prescribing before Diagnosing, would you?. And prevention is always better than cure. When you are part of the system it can be very hard to see the issues for what they are and very easy to bury your head. An honest and compassionate view of your practice (and your future) by someone from the outside can give you the confidence and motivation to get the life you desire. And we hang around to help you get there,
  • Review how you spend your Time and Energy. Are you Doing It, Managing It or Leading It? As a Leader and Manger and a Clinician it is all too easy to get sucked into the busy-ness of clinical work and assume ‘because we’re busy we must be OK.’ – very dangerous! Clear organisational, business and communication structures are at the core of freeing yourself from ‘the busy-trap’. Executive Management teams and effective team meetings are easier to implement than you think.
  • And finally, Collaborate. Find a forum to speak to your colleagues and contemporaries that are in a similar position. Seek out advisers, such as your accountant, managers, colleagues or friends. Where do you go to share your experiences, frustrations and concerns with a group of independent, like-minded colleagues that really understand your reality?

You can click here to visit the VetDynamics website

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Your Medicine is Not What Makes Your Hospital Special

From a blog by Rebecca Tudor published on the Catalyst Vet website

I hear this all the time, “We practice better medicine”. Really? Is practicing great medicine even really that hard? Yes, when you first get out of school, learning all the real world medicine can be a challenging task. After a few years though do you really think your hospital is THAT much better than the one down the street at the practice of medicine?

I probably have a few people pretty mad at me about what I just wrote and yes, I agree you do practice better medicine than the guy down the street who has not upgraded his treatment protocols since the early 80’s.

What really makes your hospital special is the way your team makes your clients and their pets feel. Your hospital’s customer service is what can truly separate you from the animal hospital down the road.

My team and I have had a few great and not so great customer service experiences lately. In one week, Nicole visited a hospital and stood in the lobby for 4 minutes before someone at the front desk acknowledged her. At another hospital she was placed on hold for 9.5 minutes (no, that is not a typo) while calling to check in on a patient of ours. These may have been isolated incidents- the hospitals may have been very busy but this is not great customer service as a matter of fact it is not even good customer service.

Not to be all negative, we have many great customer experiences and one this week was a practice manager agreeing to come in on a Sunday to discharge a surgical case of ours because the owners live 2 hours away and were going to be driving back by the hospital on Sunday. It made me feel great that she was willing to come in let alone how appreciative the owners were that they did not have to make an additional trip.

Please don’t think I am saying you need to be open on Sundays but most people don’t bother going the first mile let alone the second mile! What she did was a great example of doing more than what is expected which is how great customer service should be defined.

Great medicine should be a given, but if you really want to make your hospital stand out from the one right down to road, you better figure out a way to deliver the best consistently great customer service you possible can!

You can click here to visit the CatalystVet website

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Simon’s Cat in ‘Off to the Vet’ – Story Inspiration

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7 steps to eliminate the backstabbing in your veterinary practice

from an article by Shannon Aklarcon and published on the dvm360.com website

Take the scalpel out of your team’s back and put everyone back to work doing the job they love—helping animals.

“It’s not fair. Mary never gets called to hold difficult patients.” “I’m the only technician who ever bothers to answer the phone.” “I’m much better at [insert task] than Tammy. I’m not sure why she’s the supervisor.”

If you’ve ever overheard a statement like this, you might have a backstabber in your practice. Backstabbing generally occurs when someone thinks they’re being treated unfairly or they’re more concerned about what others may or may not be doing. It also happens when one team member feels they can do someone else’s job better. Use these seven tips to manage backstabbing in your practice:

  • Ask all members of your team to stop any backstabbing they encounter. If you’re the manager, invite supervisors to handle the issue with the team member first, before seeking your help.
  • Always investigate to explore all sides before acting.
  • Watch for signs of backstabbing. Backstabbing is obvious when victims aren’t themselves. They will become withdrawn and their production will drop. Learn to recognize these signs and develop a dialogue with team members if you suspect a problem. Often the employee victim will talk to another team member about their feelings. If you’re the manager, encourage others to come to you for intervention. Remind them this is not tattling.
  • If you’re the victim, report backstabbing to your supervisor immediately. If your supervisor doesn’t help, approach the practice manager (or follow your team’s hierarchy of authority or reporting structure).
  • If you report an issue to your manager and do not receive assistance, you may consider talking to the practice owner.
  • If you seek help and do not receive assistance, you may need to recognize the signs of a business that does not value its employees and find a new place to work.6. Check yourself. Don’t forget to investigate your own role in the problem. If you are concentrating more on others then yourself you may question if you are participating in backstabbing. Or if you are feeling hostile toward a team member you may have unwittingly become involved in backstabbing. Take a step back from the situation and evaluate your feelings about the person and talk to your supervisor.
  • If you witness backstabbing, encourage the victim to notify your manager. Only managers can solve the issue escalating the conflict. The worst response would to involve yourself in the issue: you could become part of the problem. You could also, without knowing it, encourage more—or worse—backstabbing.

Remember, backstabbers often feel insecure about their position, and that’s why they’re often spiteful to others. The backstabber also needs counseling about their fears and why they’re acting out. It could be that the backstabber was the initial victim and no one ever realized it.

You can click here to visit the DVM360.com website

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