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Stay, just a little bit longer (and take our exit interview)

Posted By Christine Shupe, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The exit interview is a valuable tool both diagnostically and strategically. Diagnostically, it can reveal important information about the factors that influence an employee’s decision to move on. Strategically, the information can be used to actions to improve the work environment.


In November, the VHMA surveyed practice managers to determine whether employers, managers and supervisors survey employees when they leave their jobs. Of the 275 individuals who responded to the Insider’s Insight survey, 63% said that they conduct exit interviews and 37% revealed that they do not.


Seventy-seven percent of those who interview departing employees report that they survey all employees, regardless of tenure or position. Twelve percent survey long-term employees, although respondents did not define “long-term.” Ten percent selected the “other” response and identified the conditions under which they conduct an exit interview, including: when employees agree to be interviewed, when employees leave voluntarily and  when interested in gaining insights from employees whose opinions are valued. Several respondents added that they only conduct the interview if there is time to fit it in.


Face-to-face interviews are the most common way to conduct the exit interview (91%), however, 9% administer electronic surveys and 5% prefer teleconferences. Among the 13% who reported they rely on a technique not listed in the Insider’s Insight survey, the majority say they circulate a hard copy of a survey that former employees can complete and return when convenient.


Ninety two percent report that they use the data obtained in the exit interview to make changes in the practice. Five percent report that the information is not used and 3% do not know what becomes of the data obtained in the interview.


Of those who use the information, 67% say that they use it to develop out-of-the-box ways to improve the practice. Eight percent say the data is helpful in evaluating staff compensation. Of the 22% who selected “other,” approximately half (10%) report that the information is used to make changes in all of the areas identified in the response categories (compensation, benefits, discounts and out-of-the-box solutions).


In general, exit interview data is available to those in upper management and may be shared among owners, managers and supervisors--- the employees most likely to influence practice policies.


As for the reasons why employees leave, of those who conduct exit interviews, the top three reasons cited are as follows: to pursue another career (45%), for personal or family reasons (29%) and to land a higher paying job (29%). Among those who do not conduct exit interviews, the top three responses are similar: to pursue another career (34%), to land a more lucrative job (27%) and for personal issues (20%).


The most significant difference between those who do and those who do not conduct exit interviews, is that those who do not schedule interviews are more likely to report that employees leave because they do not fit with the practice.


When it’s time for staff to move on, before saying farewell, be sure to make time for an exit interview. The practice may gain important information about how it can improve and employees will leave feeling good about their service.


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Pet Perks Complement Employee Benefits in Veterinary Industry

Posted By Christine Shupe, Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Landing a job isn’t only about the work. A competitive salary and benefits are important considerations, but other perks can increase employee satisfaction and loyalty. VHMA surveyed veterinary professionals to uncover specific details about discounts and benefits routinely offered to employees. VHMA received 274 responses.


Overall, employers in the veterinary industry offer a range of perks to their employees, the most common being discounts on services identified by 96% of respondents and discounts on products, selected by 95%. More than half of the respondents (58%) report that they receive free products and/or services. Respondents were given the opportunity to list additional perks that they did not feel were covered by Discounted and free products and services. A sample of the comments include annual stipends for pet care, pet insurance and products at cost, to name just a few.


Only one respondent indicated that products and services are not discounted for employees.


Discounts for products, as reported by 53% of respondents, tend to be 41% or more. Specifically, the breakdown is as follows:  28% receive a discount greater than 50% and 25% report a discount that is between 41-50%. Twenty percent report a 16-20 % discount for product.


Employees receive a slightly lower discount for services. A significant number of respondents (36%) say they receive a 16-20% discount, 27% have access to a discount of 41-50% and 26% enjoy a discount greater than 50% on services.


While discounts are good, free is even better. In general, 77% of respondents receive a free benefit or service from their employer. Twenty-three percent work in offices that do not offer any free products or services.


Fifty-three percent report that the office provides free examinations. Trailing far behind are free office call, vaccinations (5%), hospitalization (4%) and dental procedures (3%).


A handful of services were identified as free by one or two respondents and include injections, treatments, anesthesia, laser therapy, ultrasounds, euthanasia and cremation, daycare/boarding, lab work, fecal and gland expression, grooming and vendor samples, to name a few.


And while they may not be free, in an open ended response, respondents described additional perks of employment like, deep discounts on surgeries and $0.50 per hour worked deposited into a pet savings account for pet care.


Pet care perks can help to attract and retain employees. These perks should be reviewed periodically to determine whether they are relevant to employees and competitive with other practices.


As most practice managers and owners know, the IRS has regulations governing the tax treatment of employee discounts. These regulations apply to all kinds of businesses, including veterinary practices and they are not a new thing. If the discounts offered by a practice exceed those allowed by the IRS, the amount of the excess discount is to be treated as taxable income to the employee. Each practice should

consult their tax advisor for more information on this topic.


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Taking a Strategic View of Practice Success

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, September 21, 2017

Growing a business is a lot like treating a patient: A proper diagnosis and a treatment plan can have a positive impact on the patient’s health and well-being. For veterinary practices, the strategic plan can help to diagnose the state of the practice and identify goals and objectives that will ensure future success.


To determine whether practices rely on strategic planning, the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) released a survey that was completed by 170 veterinary professionals.


The majority of respondents (67%), report that their practice relies on a strategic plan and 32% do not. Respondents whose practices have not adopted strategic plans speculate that it is because supervisors lack interest or follow through in planning activities (50%), owners do not support strategic planning (46%), time constraints make planning difficult (34%) and leadership lacks the skills and/or resources to spearhead the planning process (24%).


Of the practices in which a strategic plan is used, 73% of respondents describe the plan as informal, while 27% report that the plan is a formal document.


When creating a strategic plan, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) is an important exercise to develop the strategies that can help a practice improve and grow. The SWOT analysis helps to create the roadmap for success. It is not surprising that 60% of respondents with formal strategic plans have been involved in a SWOT analysis planning session. Sixty percent of respondents whose plans are characterized as informal have participated in a practice-led SWOT planning session.


All respondents with formal strategic plans say that the plan is documented or written compared to 30% of those with informal plans.


Based on the overall results, the practice owner and manager (45%) and leadership team (41%) are the staff members most often involved with developing the strategic plan. When the responses of respondents with formal plans are analyzed, the results reveal that all staff members (37%) participate in creating the plan. Among this subset, practice owner and manager (35%) and leadership team (30%) are also involved in the planning process.


Once the planning document is created, 60% of all respondents share it with the entire staff.


Forty-two percent of respondents report that the strategic plan is designed to cover a combination of time periods, including: short-term (2 years or less); mid-term (2-5 years); and long-term (5 plus years). Twenty-six percent indicate that their plan focuses on the mid-term, 25% say the plan emphasizes the short term and 6% have adopted long-term plans.


The issues that are addressed in the plans tend to be the same across the board and include facility growth (85%), staffing (78%), equipment and/or technology (75%), and product and service pricing (70%).


A critical step in any planning process is monitoring and evaluating progress toward goals. By neglecting this step, the document is relegated to a back shelf to gather dust. How frequently the plan is evaluated is often tied to the rate of change within the organization. Among respondents, 41% evaluate and monitor the plan annually and 39% schedule quarterly reviews. A much smaller percentage monitor monthly (17%) or weekly (4%).


Strategic planning, whether formal or informal, is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process that must be evaluated and adjusted if an organization is committed to effectively confronting and adapting to future challenges.







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Presenting Finance Options is Not Standard Practice

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, August 31, 2017

In collaboration with our Platinum Business Alliance Partners CareCredit, Henry Schein/Vetstreet and Nationwide VHMA created a survey to elicit information from veterinary staff about the strategies, issues and challenges of helping clients pay for pet healthcare, communication and practice challenges. The results of the survey---completed by 216 respondents ---are presented below.


Discussing fees with pet owners can be uncomfortable and frustrating for veterinary team members. The conversation is even more difficult when it is clear that the client cannot afford the recommended treatment. In these situations, sharing information about financing alternatives and insurance options may increase the likelihood that the patients receives appropriate care.


Starting the conversation


According to the majority of respondents, the staff members most likely to discuss fees with clients are receptionists (87%) and veterinary technicians (78%).

The staff members least likely to engage in fee discussions with clients are veterinarians (52%) and other staff (62%). Please note, “other” does not include veterinarians, receptionists, managers and technicians.


Examining the options


Although the cost of veterinary care can be significant, discussing financing options with clients does not appear to be standard procedure in the practices surveyed. A scant nine percent indicate that options are included with the treatment plan. According to 67%, payment options are most often discussed only when the client voices concern about the cost of treatment. Nineteen percent defer talking about financing entirely until the client specifically inquiries about it.


Respondents (57%) prefer that when clients apply for financing they complete the application at home. Twenty-eight percent, however, would rather that clients apply in the office with the assistance of staff person.  A small number (14%) favor asking the client to complete the application on their own in the office.


Assisting the conversation


When payment options such as CareCredit are presented to clients, respondents indicate that conversations about these products can be improved with resources that clearly explain financing to clients (49%), scripts for staff that outline how CareCredit works (45%), a payment calculator (44%) that can be used to show clients their monthly payments and scripts that guide staff in discussing payment and costs in general with clients (42%). Fifteen percent believe that it would be beneficial for CareCredit to meet with and train veterinary staff.

Practices that offer CareCredit report that the most challenging aspect of promoting the credit card is informing clients that credit has been declined (75%). Other problematic areas include: discussing payment options (27%), answering client questions about CareCredit (24%), processing a CareCredit application (20%), getting help when needed (17%) and training staff to use CareCredit (15%).


Understanding the options


In the month prior to completing the survey, 70% of respondents report having first-hand knowledge of at least one staff member recommending an insurance plan to a client. The health insurance or finance companies most often mentioned are: Trupanion (61%), CareCredit (53%), Nationwide (44%), Embrace (21%), Pet Plan (18%) and ASPCA (15%). A small percentage identified a smattering of additional plans, which include 24PetWatch, Figo, Pet First and Healthy Paws.


When asked to list resources that might better equip staff  to knowledgably recommend pet insurance, the open-ended questioned yielded 66 responses that sorted into the following categories: approximately 30% report that a comparison chart with unbiased evaluations of an array of plans would provide consumers with information necessary to make good decisions; 10% requested training videos and webinars that staff could view to learn about the plans at their convenience; and several respondents requested lunch and learns and/or informational meetings with plan representatives.


Attracting clients


In response to the statement, “I believe that a pet insurance plan that includes wellness is important to a pet’s optimal health,” 40% of respondents agreed and 33% strongly agreed. Only 4% disagreed and 15% had no opinion. Forty-seven percent report that 50% or fewer of the visits to the practice are wellness visits and 43% said that more that 50% of visit are wellness visits.


Communicating effectively plays a significant role in attracting and retaining clients. The top three methods of communicating with clients are reminders sent via email (60%), reminders that are texted (45%) and assessing services and performance through client satisfaction surveys (31%). Respondents are least like to rely on phone reminders (6%) and email newsletters (4%) to keep in touch with clients.


The most important attribute of a Communication Solutions Strategy, as identified by respondents, is to improve client compliance, identified as very or most important by 71% of respondents. Forty-three percent indicated that the strategy is important to grow revenue. Fifty-six percent said that a less important aspect of communication is attract new clients and 50% felt that it was not as important to use communication to educate clients about the importance of preventive care (56%).


Responding to challenges in the practice


The quality of the staff often dictates the success of a practice. Recruiting and hiring staff is one of the greatest challenges respondents face (57%). Related to the importance of staff is the challenge of offering effective staff training and development (50%). Other areas that test practice administrators include: identifying lost revenue and capturing missing charges (43%), providing client education and ensuring compliance (40%) and increasing patient visits (40%).


Respondents do not seem to struggle as much with implementing new technology (12%), managing the practice’s reputation (11%) and complying with laws and regulations (11%).


Respondents are tuned in to what their clients are saying about the practice and most practices (94%) monitor online reviews.


An open ended question pertaining to Client Communication Solutions allowed respondent s to suggest enhancements and improvements. Those most often mentioned include:  lower cost, better integration with PMS, more opportunities for clients to communicate with the practice, improved customer support and the ability to schedule appointments online.







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The Meeting Will Come to Order!

Posted By Christine Shupe, Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Staff meetings…supervisors may see them as vital to the success of the practice and employees may view them as time wasters. Regardless of whether you love them, hate them or are blasé about them, they are standard fixtures in many veterinary practices.


VHMA surveyed 332 hospital administrators, practice managers, office managers, veterinarians and technicians and 91% are affiliated with a practice that holds staff meetings at regularly scheduled intervals. Fifteen percent report that meetings are held weekly, although 12% meet biweekly. A small number of respondents define “regular” as daily, quarterly or annually.


Approximately half of the respondents hold “all staff” meetings as well as meetings that are organized by position or department. Only a few offices schedule department only meetings (2%) or position only meetings (5%).


How critical is staff meeting attendance? It is so important that 57% said that even employees who are not scheduled to be in the office the day of the meeting are required to attend. Eleven percent report that, while the practice expects all employees to attend, those not scheduled to work are allowed to participate by phone. Thirty-three percent say that administrators do not expect employees who are not working the day of a staff meeting to participate. Those employees are later briefed on meeting discussions. Eighty-six percent of the practices surveyed distribute notes and minutes after the meeting. Fourteen percent post notes to the practice’s message board.


In the majority of cases (57%), an agenda is not circulated to staff prior to the meeting. Seventy percent designate someone to take notes, which are shared with staff.


The most common agenda topics are: customer service (96%), client communication and education (92%), medical protocols (92%), staff training (88%), products and services (84%) and management and leadership topics (70%). At the other end of the spectrum are topics that do not seem to receive much attention at these meetings, including: industry trends (36%), interesting cases (27%) and discipline issues (27%).


Meetings tend to run 31-60 minutes (40%) and 61-90 minutes (36%). Four percent report that staff meetings last less than 30 minutes and 19% attend meetings that are in excess of 90 minutes!


To ensure staff meetings are productive, 59% close the office while the meeting is in progress. Eight percent will close the office on occasion and 33% do not close the office for a meeting…ever!


According to respondents, the one strategy that influences how productive the meeting is, is having an agenda (57%). Other strategies for success identified by respondents are: required participation (18%), assigned duties/tasks (9%), short, time-limited meetings (9%) and required attendance (8%). Several respondents serve food and have introduced fun activities to make meetings more palatable.


Holding regularly scheduled staff meetings can enhance communication among employees. For these meetings to be effective, there should be an agenda and follow-up with employees who did not attend to ensure they are aware of issues discussed. And never underestimate the power of some tasty snacks and few fun activities!



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