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Best Practices for a Streamlined Veterinary Appointment Schedule

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Making the most of your veterinary appointment schedule is essential to the success of your veterinary practice. Some practice owners think they don’t need a set protocol when it comes to scheduling. However, these are the practices that fail to meet the needs of their clients and patients and over-work their staff.

In this article, we discuss how to successfully manage your veterinary appointment book so you can maximize your practice’s efficiency. We also discuss the benefits of having clients book their veterinary appointment online. Continue reading if you want to exceed the expectations of your clients and staff.

Train Your Staff Well

The best process isn’t going to be effective unless you have well-trained staff to use it. For this reason, we recommend starting your schedule planning with a thorough training process. The most important aspects include understanding needs, asking questions, and reviewing client/patient history.

Understand The Client’s and Pet’s Needs Before Scheduling

When a client calls for an appointment, it’s your Client Service Representative’s (CSR) job to figure out how to help them. The first part of this process is finding out what the client believes they need for their pet. In some cases, they may not be aware of what they actually need.

Regardless, it’s important to start the conversation by being a good listener. Let the client explain the situation and make them feel heard and cared for. Then, you can jump into talking about scheduling.

They want help, but they also want to know that your team cares about their pet. By showing that you care, the client will be more receptive to your scheduling protocols.

Ask Questions

Before scheduling their veterinary appointment, it’s time to ask some questions. Sometimes what the client believes is an emergency, may not be, and vice versa.

In other cases, a client may want a routine wellness exam performed. However, they may forget to mention that their dog has been vomiting for the last week.

Asking the right questions will help your team decide what needs to be done for both the client and practice. It will also help them create a veterinary appointment schedule that is efficient.

Consider Client and Patient History

Reviewing the patient record can save time and frustration. For example, if a client regularly sees a particular vet or has seen a particular vet for a related issue, it’s worth it to schedule them with that vet again. The vet will have an easier time reviewing the patient’s record since they saw the pet in the first place.

Plus, this improved continuity of care gives your client a better experience and makes them feel well-cared for. The pet also benefits from being familiar with the vet that’s examining them, especially during curbside protocols where the client cannot go inside with them.

Keep It Balanced

Once your CSR has a good idea of what the patient and client need, they’re ready to consider how to get them the help they need. This is also the time to start considering what the medical team needs to be effective. It’s where physically building a smart veterinary appointment schedule starts.

While back-to-back healthy pet appointments are going to be easy on the medical team, it’s not an efficient way to schedule. This could potentially leave you with back-to-back medical concern appointments. Back-to-back medical concern appointments then lead to appointments running further behind.

An ideal schedule is well-balanced. A healthy pet veterinary appointment should go between medical concern appointments. This way, it’s easier to catch up if the sick patient takes longer to care for.

Plan for Emergencies

Emergencies, by definition, do not give you a lot of time to prepare. As a medical facility, you have to do your best to expect the unexpected. Do this by leaving room in your veterinary appointment schedule for emergency appointments.

To do this effectively, you can have a doctor whose sole focus is to see walk-in and emergency appointments. You can also leave open appointments in your veterinary appointment book. You have to decide what’s best for your practice.

The former option can make for a bit of chaos and shuffling in the event of an emergency. The latter option comes with the risk of not being able to fill the appointment slot. It doesn’t matter which you choose as long as you leave room for these appointments because your clients will appreciate it.

Utilize Online Scheduling

The COVID-19 pandemic has left veterinary support staff overworked and exhausted, including CSRs dealing with busy phone lines. You can give your hard-working team a bit of a break by utilizing online scheduling. It gives them time to effectively implement your veterinary appointment training and reduces the number of incoming phone calls.

If you have too many clients calling to schedule routine appointments, you’re going to delay care for sick and injured patients. By encouraging your clients to use the online veterinary appointment schedule for routine appointments or non-emergent appointments, you can offer better care for emergencies.

Plus, with online scheduling, you can set up a veterinary appointment reminder system. This further frees up time for your CSRs so they don’t have to spend time making reminder calls and can easily send pre-visit documents. More time for your CSRs often means better client care and higher efficiency.

Take Control of the Process

When it comes to creating a veterinary appointment, your CSR needs to be in control. When it comes to scheduling, clients respond well to confident and authoritative staff members. By maintaining these guidelines, you are created the best possible experience for your patients, clients, and staff. However, some clients may not always be willing to adhere to your protocols.

There are instances where it’s worth bending the rules, especially in emergencies. However, it’s important to stick with what works and adapt as needed. Teach your team to offer specific times that are best for your schedule, let clients know what your team can do for them instead of what they can’t do, and be kind but firm when it comes to following protocols.

Make the Most of Your Veterinary Appointment Protocol

Creating an effective veterinary appointment protocol is challenging, but worth it. The right veterinary appointment schedule will make your clients and staff happy and it will keep your patients healthy. Start by training your team with effective scheduling strategies to utilize before even looking at the veterinary appointment book.

For more tips and recommendations to use in your veterinary practice, head to our blog.

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