There is no doubt that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be long-reaching, affecting almost all industries well into the future. In order to survive and thrive post-pandemic, being able to pivot and adapt to the changes is a must. For the veterinary industry, which has seen an influx of new patients and clients due to an increase in pet ownership, a change in processes has already made a difference for practices across the country. From leveraging technology to improving communication, here’s how the pandemic has changed the way veterinary practices do business presently, which could carry forward post-pandemic.
Leveraging technology for patient visits
One of the most effective strategies for slowing the spread of the virus has been an emphasis on distance. That distance, however, can be worrisome to some pet parents who aren’t allowed to be in the exam room with their furry friend. Add in the potential for long wait times and additional stress on the already heavy workload for clinic staff and you have a powder keg of emotions that can interrupt the steady flow of work day-to-day. However, with safety for clients and staff of the utmost importance, there seems little to be done to change the process. But the benefit of living in modern-day 2020 is the abundance of technology readily available. Savvy veterinary clinics are beginning to leverage that tech to make their workflow – and the lives of their staff and patients – more manageable.
Digital resources and tools that practices can leverage include
- Telemedicine. While telemedicine isn’t a new service to animal or human medicine, it’s one that has been used only rarely. In veterinary medicine, it’s use was even more sparse in the past due to federal and state regulations governing the veterinarian-client patient relationship. Typically, a veterinarian would need to have a firmly established history with a patient before even contemplating a telehealth appointment. However, with the FDA and other regulatory bodies loosening the restrictions in response to the need for social distancing, veterinary telemedicine is poised to offer a solution for overwhelmed practices across the country. Through telemedicine, your practice can reduce wait times, see more patients, increase wellness visits, and triage the more serious cases.
- Social media. Social media has long been a tool to connect with existing and prospective clients, as well as showcase what your clinic has to offer. In the time of COVID-19, it can also offer a way to connect clients with patients during visits and overnight stays. From kennel live feeds that can be accessed through Facebook to utilizing Messenger for patient updates, veterinarians and practice managers can offer comfort and reassurance to clients.
- Video conferencing tools. There’s no doubt that video conferencing tools have become a necessity during the pandemic across all industries. Savvy veterinary clinics can use these resources to provide an “in-person” experience for clients while veterinarians and veterinary technicians are examining their pets. Using both curbside drop off and conferencing technology, clinics can maintain the safety of social distancing while still consulting and educating pet parents in real time during their pet’s visit.
Technology will be a saving grace to clinics looking to maintain a strong veterinarian/client relationship during and post-pandemic. We know now how to leverage these tools and they can be effective in growing and maintaining your practice post-COVID-19, allowing you to see more patients efficiently.
Stronger client communication
Since pets can’t speak for themselves, it’s on the veterinary staff and the pet owner to communicate symptoms, diagnoses, and more. In a normal world, that’s done effectively during the patient appointment. Without that direct contact necessitated by social distancing efforts, maintaining an open dialogue with existing and prospective clients can be challenging. Focusing on strengthening communication methods and efforts has been essential to calming concerned clients and keeping everyone up to date on clinic hours, appointment processes, and new technology.
While phone calls and mailed appointment reminder cards were the main method of communicating with clients in the past, handling an influx of concerned pet owners now requires multiple touchpoints. Two-way texting, picture messaging, online patient portals, and access to pets’ electronic medical records can offer clients an in-depth picture of their pet’s health while allowing clinic staff to focus less on clogged phone lines and more on patients.
Increased responsibility for credentialed veterinary technicians
As new methods of communication, appointment setting, and patient visits are established, credentialed veterinary technicians are more vital than ever to a busy clinic. With an influx of new patients and wellness visits, overwhelmed veterinarians can rely on their dedicated veterinary technicians to work to the top of their license to triage appointments and handle routine concerns. Banfield Pet Hospitals were championing the vet tech appointment pre-pandemic, but with new processes in place for almost all clinics, more overwhelmed practices could find themselves relying on these essential workers to serve every client efficiently. To utilize veterinary technicians to their full capabilities, practices should
- Understand what credentialed technicians can and can’t do
- Offer further training to those technicians that aren’t yet credentialed
- Consider looking into the possibility of offering veterinary technician appointments to clients
Veterinary practices have changed during the pandemic and will continue to do so, making a long-lasting impact on how clinics see patients and handle clients. Preparing your staff to handle the changes is essential to success, empowering them to take on more responsibility and training. Whether you’re interested in strengthening your practice through credentialed veterinary technicians or want to improve your office’s client communication processes for veterinary assistants, Penn Foster’s Veterinary Academy offers a range of courses that can help. Contact a training expert today to find out what you can do for your practice.