Consider everything that must happen in your practice on a daily basis. Many of those tasks, such as building client relationships, diagnosing medical conditions, administering medical treatments, and performing surgery, require the efforts of a skilled and engaged team.
Other tasks, like sending out appointment reminders, require far less intentional thought. While these monotonous, repetitive tasks may be a necessary evil, they can also contribute to burnout among your team members.
Automating simple tasks through your practice management software can be an effective way to increase efficiency, reduce burnout, and provide a more consistent and streamlined client experience.
In most practices, reminders for annual exam and vaccinations are already automated. But have you considered sending automated email or text messaging reminders for parasite prevention refills or recheck exams/testing? For example, an automated reminder could be a valuable way to let a client know when their pet is due for their next glucose curve or ACTH stimulation test.
2. Online scheduling
Online scheduling not only frees up your receptionists for in-person client interactions, it’s increasingly preferred by clients. In fact, a recent survey found that 67% of people prefer online appointment scheduling! Your clients are just as busy as your team, and online scheduling gives everyone more time flexibility.
If you’re worried clients will schedule appointments during surgery hours or lunch breaks, rest assured that there are ways to avoid that. Online appointment scheduling platforms often give you the option to block off certain hours and/or take new appointments as “requests.” If necessary, your team can move appointments as needed to ensure that the day flows well for your practice.
3. Appointment confirmation
Does your practice call clients before their visit to confirm scheduled appointments? If so, consider using automated email/text messaging reminders for appointment confirmations.
Your receptionists may need to follow up via telephone with a small number of clients who do not respond, but automated reminders can significantly reduce the number of reminder calls your reception staff must place.
4. Check-in paperwork
Send clients required check-in forms prior to a scheduled appointment, allowing the clients to fill out these forms at home. This allows the owner to consider their pet’s medical history and needs without the distractions of a busy veterinary clinic, while also reducing bottlenecks at the reception desk and increasing your likelihood of obtaining a complete medical record.
5. Medical records
Most veterinarians spend a substantial portion of their day entering medical records. When possible, use text templates to automate this process. In addition to physical exam findings, consider templates for:
- Differential diagnosis lists for common conditions (e.g. colitis in dogs)
- Treatment plans for canine/feline wellness visits (e.g. vaccines, diagnostic tests, etc.)
- Treatment plans for common illnesses/injuries (e.g. otitis externa)
- Client education for common conditions (e.g. allergic dermatitis)
Using templates saves time while ensuring that your records are accurate and comprehensive.
[See also: Veterinary client education text templates to help you save time]
6. Item bundling
Creating invoices can be a surprisingly complicated task, especially when it comes to surgical cases or lengthy hospitalizations. Bundling items in your practice management software can streamline the process of creating estimates and invoices for your client. Linking items under a given treatment name or treatment code allows all items to be added to the invoice with a single click. Then, just delete any treatments you don’t plan to use and adjust quantities/dosing as needed.
7. Laboratory and imaging result integration
In many practices, a veterinarian or veterinary team member is responsible for entering laboratory test results and/or diagnostic imaging results into a patient’s medical record. Automating the process by which patient results are linked and uploaded to the record not only saves your practice time, it can help ensure that your patients have complete and thorough medical records.
8. Medication refills
In many practices, medication refills occupy a significant amount of time. A team member must take the client’s request, review the pet’s medical record, count out required medication doses, and collect payment from the client. Using an online pharmacy service linked to your hospital can automate medication refills for many of your clients. This not only reduces your staffing needs, it’s often more convenient for your clients and reduces the risk of missed medication doses.
9. Client feedback
Client feedback is a valuable tool, helping your practice strive for continuous improvement. Practice management software can help you elicit client feedback by automatically sending a client survey after every patient visit. This feedback can be collected anonymously, or you may choose to have it linked to the client/patient record for future consideration.
10. Social media posts
You can maintain a daily social media presence without having to invest time every day. Pre-scheduling your social media posts will ensure that your practice’s social media accounts remain up to date, but you can bungle the work into just one day a week.
Many tasks in the veterinary hospital can be fully or partially automated, decreasing the amount of time that team members must devote to these tasks. When implemented effectively, automation can improve client service, medical quality, and practice efficiency, while decreasing the risk of employee burnout. Look for opportunities to automate common, everyday tasks using your practice management software.
Cathy Barnette, DVM
Cathy Barnette, DVM is a veterinarian and freelance writer based in Florida. After 14 years as a small animal general practitioner, Dr. Barnette now focuses on creating educational content for veterinary teams and their clients. She shares her home with her husband, daughter, one dog, two cats, and a rescued white dove.