AS CO-OWNER OF FOUR VETERINARY hospitals in Mobile, Ala., I've seen our practices experience 20 percent to 35 percent growth during the last five years. Much of this growth has resulted from semi-annual exams, which strengthen clients' bond to our practice and increase their trust in our doctors' recommendations. With more client education opportunities, compliance has soared.
Much discussion is taking place in the profession right now about the benefits of twice-yearly exams, and I know some of my colleagues are still struggling with whether to make the leap. If you're one of them, I can say without hesitation that semi-annual exams will pay big dividends for your patients and practice if you're willing to make the commitment.
Think twice about wellness
The American Dental Association and our family dentists have educated us for years about the importance of twice-yearly cleanings. We don't question our dentists—we just do it. The same can happen with veterinary clients.
Since we increased exam frequency in my practices, we've had more opportunities to educate clients about products and services to help their pets live longer, healthier lives. Educated clients are more compliant. And frequent visits allow us to better understand individual patients' health status. Twice-yearly exams have proved to be a solid foundation for high-quality healthcare programs.
First educate your healthcare team, then educate clients. A full-scale approach is best when you're transitioning to twice-yearly exams, and it's a great opportunity to overhaul your team training program.
The bottom line: Twice is nice
• Train the team. All staff members—from part-time kennel assistants to licensed technicians—need to understand the positive impact on clients, patients, and the practice. Once you get started, generating enthusiasm for twice-yearly exams is easy—you'll soon have hundreds of examples of pets getting second chances thanks to early disease detection. Making a difference in pets' lives is a tremendous staff motivator.
But first you'll need to do some up-front training. Team members are eager to learn and improve their skills. Learning is fun. Teaching is fun. And both build team spirit and increase employee retention. Start slow with your training—if you try to do too much too fast, you'll dilute your message and lose focus. Appoint a coordinator, perhaps an experienced technician, to spearhead the training initiative. Once you get started, make team training an ongoing effort. Weekly training sessions work well.
Take roll during your training sessions: Everyone must attend—no exceptions. Close your clinic so you have everyone's undivided attention. Let clients know the day and time of team training so they get accustomed to it. Set up a voice message for incoming calls saying the hospital staff is in training and will reopen at such-and-such time. Post signs on front doors and reception counters too.
For productive training sessions, get input from associates and team members. At my practices, we plan two to three meetings in advance and provide notebooks and handouts. Quizzes help ensure comprehension.
• Get clients on board. Once you've educated your team, start working to get clients on board. Plant the seed regarding twice-yearly wellness exams during a client's annual visit. Let the pet owner know he or she will receive a reminder in six months about the pet's semi-annual wellness exam. Then get your healthcare team to reinforce that message.