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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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Information Integration in the Practice

Posted By Christine Shupe, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is your practice data trapped within multiple silos? Silos are created when information is maintained in distinct systems and is not automatically shared or communicated from system to system. Silos can hamper operations because the flow of information is inhibited, resulting in redundancy of data entry, lost information and breakdowns in communication.


VHMA took a look at how practices share critical information in the practice in its April Insider’s Insight survey.  With 299 individuals responding, the results reveal that the survey population is more likely to be information integrators than separatists.


Most respondents (80 percent) have integrated their practice management software with in-house laboratory equipment. Nine percent reported that the practice has not integrated these systems. Of the nine percent, 34 percent explained that current software does not allow integration. Fifteen percent said that laboratory equipment does not support it and 11 percent do not know why.


Respondents believe that integration of software and laboratory equipment is either important or very important (95 percent). A small percentage said it is not very important (three percent) or not at all important (two percent).


In response to a question about whether practice management software is integrated with reference lab equipment, 83 percent said that it is. Fifteen percent report no integration. The top reasons for not integrating the two is due to software that does not support integration (45 percent), 21 percent have not integrated for security reasons and 12 percent said that they did not know integration is possible. Seventy-seven percent of respondent felt it was very important to integrate project management software with the reference lab.


When asked to describe how integration between software and labs impacts customer service, the answers most commonly provided are that integration saves times, provides quick results to clients and allows staff to spend time on other tasks. Some respondents focused on the ease of getting information to clients because all records are readily accessible. Respondents also reported that it improved efficiency in the practice and allowed the practice to streamline operations creating a better client experience. Others noted that integration decreased human error and eliminated the potential for missed charges. A small number believed that there are no advantages to integration.


When asked to comment on the overall advantages of integration, respondents listed responses similar to those identified in the previous question.


Responding to a question about integration with reference labs and the impact on quality of care, respondents highlighted the timeliness of the information and improved accuracy of information, which ultimately results in better patient care. Another common response was that integration allowed professionals to identify and track trends in patient records.


If you want to eliminate data silos, it is highly recommended that order diagnostics from within your practice management software. By doing this your test requests and results will flow back and forth automatically. Talk with your in-house and reference laboratory companies to understand the latest integrations available based on your current software version. Many of these software integrations can be installed by diagnostic field technicians who can set them up for you at no charge.


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Is Data Driving Your Practice?

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, April 27, 2017

Veterinary managers interested in improving the practice’s bottom line have put data in the driver’s seat. Data can provide a wealth of information about new clients, client opinions, return visits and more. All of this information can be used to run a practice more effectively.


VHMA’s March 2017 Insider’s Insight survey focused on tracking clients and data collection---specifically, how information is collected and the ways in which practices are using the information. The survey was completed by 227 respondents.


To track or not to track


There are many reasons to track clients, including: to determine whether marketing efforts are working, to gauge client loyalty and to receive feedback. Among survey respondents, the majority are most likely to capture information about new clients at monthly intervals.

Approximately 49 percent of the respondents keep tabs on deceased patients and 51 percent do not track or collect this information. Fifty-seven percent also do not follow reactivated patients, but 65 percent do engage and monitor inactive patients.


Inactive v. former


When asked to define “inactive,” respondents do not agree on a universal definition. Forty-one percent say that a patient/client who has not had a transaction with the practice in 18 months is considered inactive. Another 40 percent identify the period of time without contact as 24 months. Write-in responses reveal that 15 percent agree that patients/clients who go without practice contact for 36 months should are considered inactive.


Keeping tabs on patients who have not returned to the practice for preventive care can be time consuming, but 67 percent report that they use some type of practice software to generate reports that makes the task manageable. Once the inactive clients are identified, most practices use phone or email messages to encourage them to schedule a visit. The message, very often, is an appeal to the client about the importance of preventive pet care. Practices also use empathy and concern about the pet’s health to motivate clients to schedule a visit.

Practices also use strategies such as product promotions (32 percent) and discounts (21 percent) to get clients back in the office.


Fifty-nine percent apply subtle pressure on clients to return. They reach out once…possibly twice and then disengage. Thirty-four percent are more persistent and will reach out three or four times. Very few (five percent) exceed five attempts.


Seven percent do not record information about inactive patients or those who have not maintained a preventive care schedule and therefore have not introduced outreach effort to persuade them to return to the practice.

Most practices (73 percent) do not have a formal reengagement program. Of the respondent who have implemented these programs, Demand Force and Vet Success were listed most often.


Of the 48 respondents with a re-engagement program, 40 percent saw a patient return of between one and three percent and 22 percent reported a four to five percent patient return. Respondents speculated that there are three primary reasons that patients do not return: the patient moved out of the area (70 percent), the client has a concern about the cost of care (57 percent) or the pet passed away (43 percent).


To ensure the practice is receiving feedback from clients about the patient experience, half of the respondents survey clients after every visit and 21 percent survey clients about select topics. Sixteen percent never survey.


Data collection and analysis can yield essential information that can have an impact on a practice’s success.

However, for the information to be effective, it should be the catalyst for outlining strategies, taking action and changing the status quo.



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To Raise or Not to Raise, That Was the Question

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, March 16, 2017

VHMA kicks off 2017 with an Insiders' Insight survey that inquired about practices’ plans to raise fees in the coming months.


The results reveal that clients will be paying more for services. Based on responses from 247 practice management professionals, 77% reported they are raising fees---30% on non-shopped services and 47% on both shopped and non-shopped services. Ten percent plan to keep fees as is and 10% report they will raise some and lower other.


Compared to a 2016 VHMA fee increase survey, slightly fewer respondents plan to raise fees on non-shopped services in 2017 (30% in 2017 compared to 36% in 2016) and about the same percentage planned to increase both shopped and non-shopped service fees (47% in 2017 and 46% in 2016).


Of the respondents increasing fees on shopped services, the greatest concentration of respondents (35%) planned a 3% increase, followed by 21% who favored a 5% increase. These findings are consistent with 2016 results: 30% reported a 3% increase and 22% were considering a 5% increase.


Close to half (49%) of 2017 respondents would like to raise non-shopped service fees between 4-6%. Thirty-nine percent reported a 1-3% increase. Four percent indicated that the practice is considering a 10% or greater increase.


History repeats itself. In 2016, 50% said they would raise non-shopped fees between 4-6% and 39% between 1-3%.


Are respondents concerned that clients are growing more concerned about service fee increases? Apparently not. Seventy-two percent said that their clients are about as concerned about price increases as they have been in the past. Fourteen percent believe that clients are more concerned about price increases and 6% feel their clients are less concerned.


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Crunching the Numbers

Posted By Christine Shupe, Monday, February 27, 2017

When you own a veterinary practice, handling the practice finances may be the most significant and perhaps the most perplexing responsibility. Ensuring that records are up-to-date and preparing and completing required financial forms are essential, but can the practice afford a full-time bookkeeper? VHMA tackled this issue in a recent Insiders’ Insight survey and respondents were asked about who handled the practice’s bookkeeping and accounting. The survey was completed by 404 practice managers.


The bookkeeper is in the house (or not)!


Managers responded to the age-old question: Is the practice’s bookkeeper and “innie” or an “outie.” Overwhelmingly (77%), respondents reported that bookkeeping is handled in-house. However, of those respondents, fewer than half (42%), said the bookkeeper had been formally trained!


Most practices use the services of an accountant to supplement the work of the bookkeeper. The frequency of accountant interactions ranged from “as needed” to weekly. Thirty-three percent reported that the practice uses accounting services monthly. A mere 2% reported that the practice NEVER uses accounting services.


That thing that you do


So, why do practices hire accountants? Sixteen percent said that the accountant is hired to handle taxes only. It is more common for accountants to provide a range of services, the most popular being review, followed by tax preparation, financial consultation and audits.


Respondents were asked to indicate whether the practice use the industry standard Chart of Accounts. Sixty-four percent reported that they do and 23% do not. Of those using the COA, 55% report it is sourced with the AAHA and 12% describe the source as modified AAHA. Other sourcing responses include: my accountant (34%), Quickbooks (16%) and previous owner (3%).


Effectively handling financial aspects of a practice is best left to qualified professionals who operate under a system of checks and balances. Although bookkeepers do not require degrees or licenses, the more training and credentials one has, the better for the practice. A properly trained bookkeeper and a relationship with an accountant will go a long way to enhance a practice’s financial standing.


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