Overhaul outcome: Finding the tools for success

Practice Management Overhaul winners reveal what they've learned throughout the process—and how it's transformed their practice.
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Jan 01, 2010



Sometimes fine-tuning is all it takes to turn a good practice into a great one. Other times you need to take several mechanisms apart and reconfigure them in a new way. But knowing which approach to take—and what needs to change—can be challenging when you're knee-deep in the day-to-day activities. Sometimes it takes an outside expert to show you where to start and to give you the tools to continue the repairs yourself. Enter the Veterinary Economics Practice Management Overhaul, sponsored by IDEXX Laboratories.

Our practice management experts Pamela Stevenson, CVPM, and Donna Bauman, CVPM, worked with two practices selected from more than 100 who told us about their struggles and shortcomings, their trials and tiffs, in an effort to be chosen for an intensive two-month management consultation. Were the winning practices ready to hear the consultants' feedback and, what's more, act on their numerous suggestions? Let's find out.

Northwest Animal Hospital, Omaha, Neb.


May I help you? One of the practice's first changes made was to designate an afternoon receptionist.
New owner gets help instilling team accountability, camaraderie.

It's your practice, your vision, your goals," Donna Bauman, CVPM, told Dr. Jodi Houts. "Your team should help you accomplish those goals. If they don't, it's like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. You're not getting them in there no matter how hard you pound."




Dr. Houts purchased Northwest Animal Hospital in Omaha, Neb., in July 2009 after spending four years at the practice as an associate. The previous owner wasn't big on management or structure, she says—they had two staff meetings during her four years as an associate—so her goals for the Practice Management Overhaul were to foster better communication and tighten the organization. Bauman developed a 20-page plan aimed at changing the culture of the two-doctor small animal practice. Dr. Houts describes the plan as "tons of things to work on."

EXISTING CHALLENGES

Dr. Houts was facing some tough challenges, Bauman says. First of all, she was operating without a receptionist most afternoons. In fact, the previous owner didn't employ a receptionist at all until Dr. Houts lobbied for someone to staff the front desk at least during the morning hours. The rest of the time, team members answered the phone and handled reception duties "as needed."

Complicating this problem was the rush of discharges late in the day. "There would be nobody in the waiting room, then suddenly it would be chaos," Bauman says. "That left the doctors feeling rushed as they met with clients."

Also, the practice team wasn't meeting regularly, and disputes over uncompleted tasks were common between the morning and afternoon shifts. Despite the fact that things weren't getting done, Dr. Houts often observed team members wasting downtime, which frustrated her. "It was like you put these people in a building and shouted, 'Go!'," Bauman says. "As a new owner juggling medical and management responsibilities, Dr. Houts had a lot on her plate."