What if I told you that a veterinarian could spend quality time with clients, diagnose and treat patients, and walk into a surgical suite scrubbed in, with the patient all prepped and ready to begin cutting?
Maybe this is already a reality in your practice, and if so, congrats on efficient use of your team. But if this seems like a dream or you haven’t quite reached this place yet, read on.
See if there are areas you could begin making changes, and those changes could increase your profitability by making more efficient use of veterinary staff.
A Comparison of Sick Patient Visits
Example One: Sick Patient Visit with Inefficient Use of Veterinary Staff
To begin with, let’s walk through a typical sick patient visit in a practice missing out on opportunities for reducing cost through efficient use of veterinary staff:
- Doctor and techs are still involved with another client/patient, so front office staff brings next patient and client to exam room. As a result, this creates missed opportunities to connect with clients arriving or calling on the phone.
- Patient and client wait.
- Tech enters with doctor, and then doctor discusses reason for visit (scratching at ears), obtains history, measures TPR/weight, and performs an ear swab for cytology. Both exit exam room.
- Technician sets up slides, doctor performs microscopic review, tech enters patient charges and updated vitals, and then doctor tells tech the medications to gather.
- Both the doctor and tech return to exam room. Doctor discusses ear cytology findings and then proceeds to clean patient’s ear and demonstrate how to treat with ointment at home.
- The tech walks client and patient up to check out so they can be invoiced and scheduled for their progress exam.
- Technician meets doctor in next exam room since patient has been waiting.
- Restart cycle.
Example Two: Sick Patient Visit with Efficient Use of Veterinary Staff
Now let’s walk through that same visit, however in a more cost-effective method that utilizes our technician staff for certain tasks. Using staff helps them feel more valued and empowered, and allows the doctor to spend more time with the client as well as see more patients.
- Technician brings the patient and client into the exam room, so front office staff can greet clients/patients arriving to the practice and answer the phone.
- Patient reason for visit (scratching at ears) is discussed by the tech, then history is obtained, TPR/weight is measured, and an ear swab is performed for cytology.
- The tech sets up slides, performs microscopic review, enters patient charges and updated vitals, and then informs doctor the patient is ready for exam and reviews key info.
- Technician enters with doctor, doctor greets client and patient, doctor performs a thorough physical exam while tech safely restrains the patient. The doctor recommends a treatment plan, and tech exits room to gather medication while doctor concludes his/her portion of the visit.
- Doctor exits and moves with another tech to next patient waiting to be seen, while the first tech returns to exam room to demonstrate cleaning and treating patient’s ears with prescribed ear wash and ointment.
- Tech walks client and patient up to check out for invoicing and scheduling of progress exam while assistant cleans room.
- Restart cycle.
Our Infographic shows the two examples side-by-side, thus you can easily see that Example Two makes more efficient use of veterinary staff than Example One. Infographic for Efficient Use of Staff.
Comparing the Examples
Quality Time with Clients and Patients
In Example 1 the doctor does indeed spend a good amount of time in the exam room with the client. However, it is while performing tasks that could be completed by trained technicians and/or assistants.
If either techs or assistants performed those tasks, it would allow the doctor to give the client and patient more quality time plus undivided attention.
In addition to the quality time aspect, having doctors perform tasks that staff could perform also has a financial impact. On average, the per minute cost assigned to a doctor may be around $5.75, while the per minute cost of a technician may average $2.50.
Consequently, when a doctor performs a microscopic evaluation of an ear cytology (approximately 3-4 minutes) and demonstrates how to clean and treat ears (approximately 6-10 minutes), the practice’s cost is much higher than for a technician.
|Example Comparison: Practice’s Cost for Doctor Versus Technician Performing Ear Treatment Tasks|
|Performing Task||Treatment Task||Time Required||Per Minute Cost||Total Task Cost|
|Doctor||Microscopic evaluation of ear cytology||3.5 minutes||$5.75||$20.13|
|Technician||Microscopic evaluation of ear cytology||3.5 minutes||$2.50||$8.75|
|Doctor||Showing how to clean and treat ears||8.0 minutes||$5.75||$46.00|
|Technician||Showing how to clean and treat ears||8.0 minutes||$2.50||$20.00|
When we add the procedures together the total diagnostic and ear treatment visit cost is around $66.13 if the doctor performs both tasks, while it costs $28.75 if the technician performs them.
Therefore, the practice saves around $37.38 per visit due to efficient use of veterinary staff.
|Example Comparison: Practice’s Total Diagnostic and Treatment Cost for Ear Treatment Visit – Doctor Versus Technician|
|Performing Task||Cost for microscopic evaluation of ear cytology||Cost for showing how to clean & treat ears||Total Visit Cost|
Since these tasks are performed regularly in most practices, let’s review the yearly cost savings. If they are performed once a day, 261 days per year the annual cost savings is around $9756.18.
|Example Comparison: Practice’s Annual Diagnostic and Treatment Cost for Ear Treatment Visits- Doctor Versus Technician|
|Performing Task||Total Visit Cost||Visits Per Year||Total Annual Cost|
Client Service and Connection
Another difference between Examples One and Two can be seen in the area of Client Service.
Example One creates situations where the client is waiting or lacking connection with the team, whereas in Example Two there are multiple encounters by the team members.
Each encounter is important since it’s an opportunity to create an inviting experience that connects the client to the practice.
While positive connections increase the likelihood of return visits, negative or missed encounters do the opposite.
Getting to Example Two
Achieving Example Two is a process, so it will take time and planning. However, the tips below can help you move forward.
- Prioritize and Plan. First, go ahead and grant yourself some grace, then find a couple of key team members that are “go-getters,” and prioritize and plan.
- Start Small. Begin with small tasks that you can easily train and entrust to your staff to always complete, such as:
- Skin or ear cytologies
- Minor clip and cleans
- Nail trims
- Anal gland expressions
- Grow From There. Then, as these team members become proficient in their new tasks, begin training them to perform more complex tasks, such as:
- IM injections
- See the Benefits. Over time, as your team performs more and more of these services, it will free you up to perform more “doctorly” tasks as well as spend more quality time with the patients and clients you love to serve. Once you gain momentum and your team sees results, adding tasks will become easier. In addition, as your team becomes more efficient your profitability will increase.
In summary, making efficient use of veterinary staff can increase your practice’s profitability in several ways.
- First, since technicians have a lower per minute cost than doctors, profit will increase for procedures you start delegating. Therefore, it makes sense for staff to handle tasks like ear treatments, which saved $37.38 per visit in our example.
- Secondly, delegating tasks allows you to increase revenue and profit by treating more patients.
- Additionally, increasing efficiency can enhance service by minimizing wait times and enabling connection with clients – thus improving retention.
- Finally, efficient use of veterinary staff helps you spend more quality time with patients and clients, creating another positive connection.
While achieving these results does take time and planning, you can start by training motivated staff members to yield results in one area. Then, keep adding tasks as each one is mastered, and step by step your efficiency will increase.
Once you gain momentum and start seeing results, adding tasks will become easier. As a result of your efforts, your practice profitability will increase.