Busy veterinarians and hospital staff need every spare minute they can find. Not only that, but stretched practices must watch every penny to thrive. The good news is time- and cost-saving opportunities through automation are much more widely available than ever before. Veterinarians can now find day-to-day efficiencies through optimization of internal processes. These may include learning how to use paperless technology to save time during check-in, discharge, and everything in between, as well as increasing much-needed revenue by capturing more charges. When implemented properly, these tools can provide even better care to patients, and get you and your staff home on time.
Most common bottlenecks
Does this sound familiar? You run an emergency hospital and want to get patients admitted quickly… but you can’t. Whether it’s a broken printer or impossible-to-read handwriting, there’s always something that slows down the process. Consider the following common scenarios:
- It’s surgery day, things are hectic, and the technician is torn between focusing on the patient and keeping the anesthetic sheet up to date.
- There’s a shift change and you’re exhausted, but you can’t leave yet because you have paperwork to finish.
- It’s time to discharge a patient and the client is waiting impatiently to see her dog after surgery. However, it’s taking forever to enter in the procedures and finalize billing, ensuring an unhappy pet owner and further hospital delays.
If these situations sound familiar, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your hospital processes to find ways to improve them. Let’s consider different facets of a practice’s workflow that could be improved upon.
The tone of a veterinary visit is set the moment a client enters the hospital with their pet—remember, first impressions count. Rather than asking clients to fill out multiple forms and then deciphering their handwriting, a receptionist could simply hand the pet owner an iPad to check the appropriate boxes on the form. Imagine shorter lines and much happier clients in a reception area that feels calm and welcoming, rather than crowded and crazed.
Further, consider the benefit of digital communications between the reception area and the back of the hospital so that every animal and procedure is always accounted for. Digital tools make it possible to automate so many of these processes and procedures—no retyping, scanning, handwriting analysis, or running around the hospital looking for rooms or confirming a patient’s whereabouts.
We all know surgery day is intense, long, and hectic. But what if it doesn’t have to be? If your hospital is still getting manual surgical consent forms, monitoring anesthesia on paper, or using an actual whiteboard to keep track of surgeries, you are not running efficiently or being as effective as you could be. With the right digital tools, it’s possible to offer electronic consent, maintain anesthetic sheets, update whiteboards, and track billing. In fact, by using a digital surgical whiteboard, everyone is on top of their game—from veterinarians knowing when patients are ready for them, to technicians checking on how long surgeries are taking, to receptionists who need to inform pet owners calling for updates.
Ten minutes spent on each flowsheet for six hospitalized patients is an hour spent not caring for them. With a digital flowsheet, you can develop templates for common procedures, make calculations, create reminders, and highlight anything you need to remember. Best of all, if your digital flowsheet includes reminders and notes functions, you’ll likely not forget anything, improving the quality of care for patients and decreasing stress all around.
The pet owner is anxiously waiting to give her pup a hug and get back home, but the invoice isn’t ready when she walks in the door and there is nobody available out front to get the dog, much less discuss the (not-yet-ready) invoice with her. Not exactly an optimal experience, right?
Through the use of workflow optimization tools, all billable procedures noted as complete are added to the billing report, meaning every single thing done during the patient visit that needs to be billed is actually accounted for. And with digital whiteboards, the receptionist knows exactly what time the pet will be ready, as well as their treatment status. No more missed charges or waiting and worried pet owners. Finally, if your practice-management software is fully integrated with these tools, these tracked charges will load automatically into both the invoice and the patient’s record.
The end of the day
A team that goes home on time is a happier and more productive one, which is why it’s important to create efficiencies. For example, if appointments in your hospital are scheduled to begin in 10-minute intervals, but by 10:00 a.m., you’re an hour behind, perhaps you need to schedule in 15-minute intervals or even bring on another associate veterinarian or technician to manage the influx. Or, if your team wastes time deciphering their own notes, and the front desk spends a full five minutes trying to locate a patient’s chart while the check-in line grows longer by the second, maybe it’s time to go digital. By managing simple processes more effectively, staff stress levels decrease, care improves, and best of all, everyone knows their own schedules and can plan their personal life accordingly.
With a little research and some adaptability, you can eliminate paper sign-in forms and treatment sheets, save time, and capture charges. Further, many of these tools can be customized and be implemented based on your practice’s unique pain points and needs.
Rachel Houlihan is general manager and senior director of IDEXX’s veterinary software and services. She has been at IDEXX for more than 20 years and, in that time, has brought her unique brand of leadership and customer commitment to impact multiple IDEXX business areas, including operations, technical support, dairy, IDEXX reference laboratories, and veterinary software and services. Houlihan lives in Maine with her family.