This diverse panel of veterinary professionals provided insight on how they adapted to the drastic and new protocols, including roadside care, during the pandemic, and why and how they started implementing telemedicine and other innovative technologies to make their practices more efficient close. If you want to learn more about how the pandemic has shaped the veterinary industry and how you can help your practice thrive in these unprecedented times, read on!
How has the pandemic affected customer communication? How has it changed the way you practice medicine?
Tai Ogg, DVM, MPH: So it was an interesting experience, especially with the huge increase in the number of cases across the board. And regardless of whether it was a family doctor’s practice, emergency medicine or emergency care, everyone saw a significantly increased number of cases. Communication definitely became even more important, especially for owners who weren’t allowed to enter the building. It’s hard having to read between the lines to figure out what’s going on.
Patricia Leff, DVM, MS: We are completely curb. And I have the feeling that it was also more difficult to make appointments because there is a lot more going back and forth. At first we did things entirely on the phone. About a month after the pandemic, I had to go to cars and have this human interaction because I think we had fewer communication problems than we could have face-to-face communication even though we were masked. I think it’s really important to see your body language.
Charles D. McMillan, DVM: I think now overcommunication is more important. I think something is going to be lost if you can’t see the client. Since the pandemic there have unfortunately been patients whom I have accompanied from their first puppy vaccinations to maturation without ever having met their owners personally. I think at this time trust is even more fragile. Excessive communication is very important as owners who are used to escorting their pets indoors are now forced to adjust to the dispensing. Because of this, I find myself communicating with them too much. Sometimes I take photos so that they feel like they are part of this process.
Stephanie Onken: I know that our member clinics, which did not adapt their communication strategies immediately, really struggled to keep up with demand, but also to cope with their burnout. So there is a lot of self-care that needs to happen. All of our member clinics with curbs, whether they stayed curb all the time, was questionable. But if they didn’t adjust their communication strategies to serve not only their team but also their clients, their burnout was incredible.
Kristina Guldbrand, CVT, BS, ACC: The teams I work with obviously attach great importance to good team dynamics. They said we need to work on our communications, internally and with customers, and develop new skills that we probably never had before. But what they see in my opinion is that all the work they did in the beginning is now paying off. And when we get back to normal, they will actually have a stronger team and know how to get through tough times. They build better bonds and relationships with their team members because they put the work in at the beginning. And the people who may not have done this job may now realize that communication is something everyone should be invested in. It is never too late to develop these skills.
Brad Marconyak, CVT, CVPM: What I find out is that they not only [teams] having to communicate with customers on the phone, but internal staff communication has become more difficult as people walk around. In the beginning, so many clinics worked shifts because if someone was potentially exposed, they didn’t want to close the clinic. So you led half teams. And ironically, after probably six months, many hospitals were talking about how they found out who their really strong team members were and how to be really efficient because they started communicating better.
What are some workflow barriers that your hospital / team has experienced? How did you fight them?
Unken: As an association, we had the opportunity to be nimble and support our members when they were walking around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to protect themselves and their families, their teams and their patients. We partnered with companies like PawsTime, Virtuwoof, and PetPro Connect and really brought these technologies to the clinic and said, “Hey, we did the research, we did the review, we got you a discount. Use this and this is how we will help you use it. ”One of the biggest complaints we have heard from our members was that they could not keep up with the phone calls. Their phone lines kept ringing.
Gold brand: On the software side, one of the things I love about PIMS software
What we work with is that we’ve created a kiosk that people can fill out online using a link so people can fill out their admission form using a link that they get via text message on their phone. And during the pandemic, we really went out of our way to bring as many features as the universal inbox to them. For example, the office can send a text message to the customer from his patient record, and the customer can send him an e-mail if he wants, creating easy communication.
Ogg: I have definitely seen practices where they may not have used that much staff
to their full potential. But now because of the curb, if you’re not efficient, you just can’t make it through the day. They have started pushing their staff to take on certain roles, whether they are assigned a specific task for the day or how it works, and it’s nice to see more hospitals actually deploy their staff. I think it makes the staff a lot happier, it makes them feel like they’re a lot less burned out.
Marcus Dela Cruz, DVM: One thing that our hospital did I found really cool – and we’re seeing more – was using QR codes. So, in California, there is a law that says that any drug that is sent home that is an oral drug must be asked whether the customer would like advice on it, decline it, or accept it. And if they want advice, we basically put the QR code on the bottle that we send home for them to scan. It links directly to a plumb link that contains all of the side effects of this drug. That was kind of cool. It’s something I never thought I’d see, but the pandemic really forced us to. During my first few months, my mentor said, “You are terrible on the phone. You are flat It doesn’t come across. Every customer you call thinks their dog is going to die just because you’re so flat. ”So this whole transition was really a big game changer for me.
Do you see a major conversation of “I wish I had the money and am worried about having to euthanize my pet?”
McMillan: I now work for a recruitment company as a regular veterinarian. I work in multiple environments. I did not appreciate an increase or change in the dynamics of the euthanasia conversation. Many hospitals that I visit have made special exemptions and accommodations for people who feel a need that euthanasia is the best option; The pandemic hit many people and groups of people differently. Luckily, when customers bring their pets to my home, there is usually something that can be done for their pet, even if the financial constraints don’t allow the gold standard to go up.
Leff: Fortunately, we don’t see any greater concern about euthanasia either. We work with clients, make treatment plans, offer care loans, try to resolve treatment plans if we can, you can do a little here, and then a little next week if the owner does so.
her cross: Our community is an older community so a lot of people have retired so they don’t get kicked out of their jobs or lose their jobs. They have a steady income, so we really have not seen an increase in euthanasia or the ability to afford services. But I didn’t know if this was specifically because of our community or if it was so general, so it’s really interesting to hear.
Unken: We saw an increase. Fortunately, since we offer cremation, our numbers have not increased abnormally during the pandemic. This means that our vets did not offer economic or practical euthanasia. One of my clients is actually a home euthanasia clinic, and apparently on their website – videos, social media, anything – she has not contacted them to facilitate euthanasia.
Leff: We were able to place some patients with owners who felt they could
don’t care about them anymore because people are trying to bring fur babies into their home. And so we are fortunate enough to have a few rescue workers in the area that we work with. A few patients signed up to our hospital and we were able to find a home for them. If anything, I think spending in our clinic is actually increasing.
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