Can your practice pull an all-nighter?
Make sure 24-hour care at your hospital will appeal to you, your clients, your team, and your pocketbook.
Oct 22, 2008
Q: I own a busy three-doctor general practice and want to offer after-hours emergency service. How do I figure out whether it's a good move?
First let's talk about the financial aspects. In considering the additional cost to operate an after-hours emergency service, you've probably realized that you're already paying some of this overhead. Your building and all that equipment are sitting there every night, weekend, and holiday, whether you use them or not. Thus you have an opportunity to expand hours of use without increasing these fixed costs.But while fixed costs won't change, don't forget about your increased labor costs. Savings in fixed overhead are small compared with the associated increases in staff salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes. In analyzing the impact that adding an emergency service would have on your cash flow, you need to pay most attention to the additional labor costs you'll assume.
Veterinarians and veterinary team members typically don't want to work weekends and overnight shifts, so you should anticipate needing to pay higher doctor and staff salaries for after-hours work. Also keep in mind that when you commit to staffing 24 hours a day, your payroll becomes a fairly fixed cost. In other words, whether you see one case a night or 20, you'll have to pay a doctor and typically two or more team members to be on duty.
There are big benefits, though, to adding emergency hours. Both gross revenue and the number of new clients will increase dramatically, and the risk of an after-hours "mishap" because of inadequate patient monitoring will be reduced. In a community without an emergency facility, your clinic could become a valuable resource to clients and fellow veterinarians.