5 Time-Saving Hacks For Short-Staffed Veterinary Practices

veterinarians performing veterinary surgery

By Stacee Santi, DVM

How is it possible that there are never enough hours in the day to get all of your tasks completed? Then, when you throw in veterinary staff members calling in sick and doodles eating socks, it may seem like you’ll never get home for dinner on time… like, ever.

Some may think these issues are COVID-related, but those of us who have practiced prior to 2020 know veterinary teams have struggled with these problems for decades. During my 20 years in the industry, I’ve discovered a few things that can really improve practice efficiency without sacrificing the veterinary client experience, and I want to share my top five with you.

1: Stop duplicating history collection for sick visits

Raise your hand if you are a receptionist or veterinary technician who just spent a solid 10 minutes collecting a beautiful history from the client only to have the veterinarian go in the room and basically repeat the whole process? If you are that veterinarian, (spoiler alert: I was) then listen up. 

I realized that my issue was I needed to ask those questions and hear the answers because I was trying to dig into weak spots in the story to seek additional clues that might help me make a faster diagnosis. I needed the client to feel heard and that I understood the situation so I could have their trust when I presented a $500 workup. It was all about relationship building for me.

I realized it was a big waste of support staff time to have them take the initial client history. 

I decided to make a change in process and asked my staff to collect the bullet points only (not the history), and, if the client tried to share the history, they would say “Hold up…the doctor needs to be in here when you share this important information.” 

This allowed my team member to get out of the room, and answer a call or two while I collected the history. The room assistant would return about five minutes after I entered the room, as a cue to get started on the physical exam. This helped keep the visit progressing at a good clip, and we would avoid getting trapped by the client, who felt inspired to tell you the life history of all pets they have ever owned.

veterinarian speaking to vet client

2: Automate anything repetitive

  • Start using keyboard shortcuts (or the shift space glossary jedi trick if you are an AVImark user) Create keyboard shortcuts that populate the chart and notes to the client. This speeds up your daily workflow and standardizes the veterinary client experience so that regardless of how busy I get, I feel better knowing I won’t forget to educate my client about a small detail that has a big impact on the patient (like checking the toes for swelling on a bandage twice a day). Be sure to check out episode 2 of the #IVETSOHARD podcast, where Dr. Courtney shares how to use macros and keystrokes on your computer.
  • Record a video library — Start spending a few hours a month building up your video client education library. My trick, do it on the fly, and forget about how your hair looks. If I was seeing a diabetic patient, I would whip out my phone and record a quick video on how to give the insulin injection. I would record another video on what to watch for if the blood sugar was too low or too high. Bam. Now I’ve got two videos to repurpose for every future diabetic patient I ever see in my entire career. Be sure to check out episode 5 of the #IVETSOHARD podcast for more ideas on this!

3: Batch lab and refill tasks

Lab results for wellness visits

Once I learned that clients don’t actually need to hear the results of lab work the same day they are received, my life got quite a bit better. Remember, most clients are used to human healthcare, where the results come weeks later. Start telling all clients to expect a call (or text or app message) on Thursday (or your slowest day of the week). Then, batch it all and hand it over to a receptionist to dole out the results to everyone at once on that day. They can go off the floor for an hour and knock it out. 

Veterinary pharmacy refills

Instead of having clients request refills with a phone call, start driving them to use your practice’s mobile app when they need a refill by changing your on-hold messaging to say: 

“If you are calling to request a refill or appointment, consider using our mobile app by searching our practice’s name in the app store. Or, please continue to hold for a team member. We are experiencing heavy call volumes so we apologize for the delay.”

Clients will quickly use your veterinary app to submit their refill request, which will be listed in your dashboard if you have the Vet2Pet platform, so you can handle them in batches. 

An advanced idea is to designate a daily technician/veterinarian “refill team.” They will agree to huddle 10 minutes mid-morning and 10 minutes mid-afternoon to review all requests since the last huddle. The veterinarian will approve and deny the requests (doctors can cover for each other here for the ultimate teamwork experience), and the technician can immediately go off the floor for 10 minutes and fill the orders. If you use the Vet2Pet platform, once the order is filled, the client will receive a notification letting them know their order is ready for pickup.

I recommend the technician wears a crown or tiara during prescription refill time, so everyone knows they are in the middle of something and cannot be interrupted during that period!

online veterinary pharmacy promotion

Promote your online pharmacy

Even better than handling refills in-house is to leverage your online pharmacy partner, like Vetsource, as much as possible. They can use their support team to invoice, fulfill, and ship the medications to clients. This means a quick authorization and you are done. If you are worried about losing revenue to your online pharmacy partner, remember that your time is better spent seeing another patient or getting home for dinner on time.
veterinary pharmacy refills

4: Give go-home instructions during check-in

For all the routine stuff like spay/neuters, dentals, lacerations, etc., review the go-home instructions when the patient is admitted for the procedure. Share the instructions with the client in your practice’s mobile app so they can share with their family members and not risk losing the paperwork. Instruct the clients to be sure to read over the information between now and pick-up time in case they have any questions about their responsibilities during their pet’s recovery period. This will speed you up in the afternoon when all the dismissals are showing up at once and you’ve got a walk-in laceration waiting for you on the table. 

5: Create a VIP experience for your top clients

Once a client hits a certain status at your practice, allow them to be billed monthly. This will save you loads of time by not having to check them out, and it’ll make them feel extra bonded to your practice. Be sure to send their invoices home at the time of service, but give them a fast-lane experience. The more VIP clients you cultivate in your practice, the faster your day will go.

Ultimately, if you are trying to move faster, keep your eyes peeled for the tasks that are slowing you down, and start dissecting the barriers that are slowing you down. Address them, and you will see an increase in your team efficiency. Demo the Vet2Pet platform to find out how it could help your practice.

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