Why you should offer day admissions at your vet practice

For one, it’ll make you a superhero to your clients

A panicked pet owner calls you after cleaning up vomit and diarrhea. His dog devoured a platter of hamburgers and hotdogs during a backyard barbeque.

Communicate your eagerness to help. Tell the caller, “I’m sorry to hear that your pet is sick. Let me see how we can help you today.”

Unlike a physician’s office, a veterinary hospital has to juggle preventive checkups, surgical and dental procedures, emergencies, walk-in clients—and fit sick patients into an already full schedule. Offering day admissions can satisfy clients and boost hospital revenue.

Your clinic could use day admissions when:

  • You need extra time for workups.
  • Your schedule is full but you want to see sick patients.
  • Clients request to leave pets with you for the day for their convenience.

Avoid saying “drop-off service.” You would never drop off a beloved family member at a hospital for medical care. Instead, use the phrase “day admission” to communicate the value of professional services and to set clients’ expectations.

Here’s how to incorporate day admissions into your daily routine:

Day-Admit for Workups

Your next scheduled appointment is a sick patient. After performing a comprehensive exam and discussing symptoms with the client, you need an additional two hours for diagnostics, including radiographs, ultrasound and lab tests. Rather than have the client occupy an exam room or the lobby for two hours, day-admit the patient for the diagnostic services.

Create a treatment plan that lists services and fees. Review it with the client and ask him to sign the treatment plan, which gives legal consent to treat the pet and communicates payment policies. Get the client’s cell phone number and set a pickup time to review results.

The inpatient team will perform workups on day-admission patients. The outpatient veterinarian, who will continue to see scheduled appointments, should tell inpatient technicians which diagnostics need to be performed. Once diagnostics are complete, veterinary technicians will notify the veterinarian so he or she can interpret the results, determine a diagnosis and talk with the client during the designated pickup time.

Day-Admit Sick Patients When Schedule Is Full

When no appointments remain, day-admit sick patients. A technician should use a day admission form listing history questions, collect the patient’s vital signs, confirm the client’s cell phone number, get a treatment consent signature and set a pickup time. Because the veterinarian and client may not talk face to face, the technician bridges communication between the two.

The technician will prepare an initial treatment plan showing expected services and fees, and then tell the client she will call with an update once the doctor performs the exam and knows which tests are needed. An alternative is to have the client authorize care up to a specific amount, such as $400. Tell the client, “If we anticipate that care will exceed $400, we will contact you before performing additional services.” Give the client a copy of the signed consent form.

Day-Admit for Clients’ Convenience

A client has a looming work deadline and his dog needs an annual checkup before the family vacation tomorrow. He calls to ask if he can leave the dog for the day so it can receive services. The owner arrives and meets with a technician, who completes a day admission form with history questions, gathers vital signs, confirms the client’s cell phone number, prepares a treatment plan based on the services and medications due, gets a signature for consent to treat and sets a pickup time. Give a copy of the signed treatment plan to the client.

How Many Day Admissions?

Set a limit on day admissions based upon the number of doctors and technicians scheduled to work. Depending on the number and skill level of your inpatient technician team, you may be able to work up only one or two day-admission patients because of employees’ other duties.

If one veterinarian is scheduled to work from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday with two technicians, he may be able to see a maximum of four day-admission patients. Ideally, your last sick patient would be admitted 90 minutes or more before closing so you have enough time to perform diagnostics, share results with the client, prescribe treatment and avoid employee overtime.

Should You Charge a Day Admission Fee?

When scheduling a day admission for your convenience—workups and work-ins—the client is not charged for hospitalization. Your fees will be for exams, diagnostics, treatments and medications.

When the day admission is for the client’s convenience, charge a one- to 12-hour hospitalization or day-boarding fee.

The average fee for hospitalization without an IV and no overnight stay for a 25-pound dog is $32.29, according to the American Animal Hospital Association’s Veterinary Fee Reference, 9th Edition. This day of hospitalization would be charged in addition to the physical exam and other professional services provided. The hospitalization fee covers nursing care, water and food, walking the patient and cleaning a cage.

Feline hospitalization without an overnight stay or IV averages $32.28, according to AAHA. Boarding fees average $19.39 for a dog less than 30 pounds in a small run, $20.72 for a 30- to 60-pound dog in a medium run, $22.43 for a 61- to 90-pound dog in a large run and $22.76 for a dog greater than 90 pounds. Feline boarding averages $17.57.

To explain the charge to clients, say, “We would be happy to provide services for your pet’s annual checkup as a day admission. For 15 minutes, you will meet with a technician who will ask history questions, get your pet’s vital signs and review which services and products are due. You will receive a treatment plan that explains the expected services and fees. We will get your cell phone number in case the doctor has questions when the services are delivered. You may pick up your dog after <time>.

“Because we will care for your pet throughout the day, there is a day admission charge of <amount>. Let’s schedule your day admission appointment. We could admit your dog at 8 or 8:30 a.m. Which choice fits your schedule?”

You also could offer walk-in service for the day admission and ask the client, “What time should we expect you to arrive so the technician is prepared to see you?”

By offering day admissions, you will be a superhero when clients have sick pets and busy lives. While increasing client loyalty, you also will grow revenue and help more pets—a win-win-win for you, clients and patients.

Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. For more training on seeing same-day sick patients, go to her website to order her webinar “Take Control of Scheduling Calls,” which includes unlimited playback for the entire team, a handout, one hour of continuing education credit, a test and a CE certificate. She may be reached at wmyers@csvets.com or www.csvets.com.

Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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