An oasis of tranquility

Acacia Animal Health Center in Escondido, Calif., gets Zen down to a science—creating a climate of calm for pets, clients, and team members.
Jan 01, 2008

Zen garden: For team members' use only, the central garden offers a quiet spot to relax and catch one's breath during a busy day. The result? Relaxed and happy team members means relaxed and happy clients and patients.
Dr. Gary Gallerstein knows that when clients bring their pets to the veterinarian, they're stressed out—and so are the pets. So when he and co-owner Dr. Carmine Bausone and practice manager Carol Chaney dreamed up their vision for Acacia Animal Health Center in Escondido, Calif., they worked hard to create a Zen-like feeling for clients, pets, and team members. Lush greenery, a cool color palette, and three rock fountains—two inside and one outside—set a peaceful tone for the hospital entrance.

When clients walk in the front door, they're greeted by the veterinary concierge, whose sole purpose is to be attentive to incoming pet owners. This is Dr. Gallerstein's favorite client service. Phones are answered in a walled-off space behind the front desk, so the reception area is quiet when clients walk in and while they're waiting. To keep it even more calm and quiet, clients review invoices, pay bills, and schedule rechecks in the exam room. This ensures that the concierge isn't distracted by phone calls, bill paying, or the discharge process but can focus on catering to the client waiting to be seen. "In a typical hospital, receptionists handle everything that goes on at the front desk," Dr. Gallerstein says. "They deal with too many distractions—it's not peaceful."

Acacia Animal Health Center
The hospital may be a restful place now, but when it first opened in January 2006, Dr. Gallerstein was anything but relaxed. "That was a bad month to open," he says. "We missed the holiday rush for our pet resort. For the first five months we were open, revenue was almost flat and it wasn't a happy time." But in the last six months of the year, the practice has grown by roughly 40 percent. And its luxury boarding facility, All Seasons: A Five Paw Resort, has played a big role in that growth. Each "sweet" for dogs has a ceiling fan and a monitor playing Animal Planet, and these pets also get extra-special attention from the staff. There are also cat condos, bird bungalows, and other exotic boarding areas. "The pet resort has been an amazing success," Dr. Gallerstein says. "It caught on really well with our clients, and it helps pay the mortgage." Dr. Gallerstein recommends that anyone building a new practice consider adding luxury boarding. "It's relatively passive income—not doctor generated, and if you do it right, it gets clients from the pet resort side into the hospital for other services."