Oh no! The "brrrrr" is here! Is winter keeping veterinary clients away? Use your down time as a practice manager or practice owner for something not so fun but super useful: improving your drug inventory processes.
Don't get TICKED OFF by the slow months. Get productive and proactive with looks at your processes. (Shutterstock.com)
When it comes to buying parasiticides, your customers have a plethora of choices, including 900-plus PETCO stores, Petsmart, Walmart, Target, Ace Hardware, Cabela's (of all places), Costco, Feed Stores and online auctions, which last time I checked had more than 2,000 listings for parasiticides. The struggle is real, and veterinary practices are feeling the pain.
So, practice management superhero, how can you maintain appropriate inventory without breaking the bank or losses due to expiration while at the same time staunching the profit hemorrhage to other retailers?
You've got time. Winter is here, things are probably slower around the hospital, and it's a perfect time to evaluate your parasiticide inventory and inventory management practices.
Here are some tips on how to make it happen.
1. Delegate this stuff!
You're a practice manager (or practice owner), you're not an inventory manager. You need help, so look to your staff. Do you have someone who could identify specific steps of improvement, stay on task with minimal supervision, and help make it happen with a supportive and encouraging attitude towards staff? That's your pony!
If that person doesn't quite exist in your practice, could you develop someone on staff to become that person-or hire that person?
What an 'inventory strategist' could do for you
Here is a more specific job description for a veterinary practice inventory superhero:
> Manage and order retail and OTC products
> Manage and order cleaning supplies and customer care hospitality products
> Develop and maintain good relationships with vendors and meet them on a regular basis
> Stock all workstations twice a day
> Stock the hospital phamarcy once a day
> Stock food displays once a day
> Stock retail displays once a day.
If your practice is like ones I've worked in, parasiticides wind up stuffed wherever they fit-or hidden away in unmarked cabinets. If you store parasiticides in too many places in your practice or in too many open bottles, then it gets hard to visualize volume when there are so many places to count stuff. It also eats up support staff time and leads to incorrect inventory problems.
Keep internal and external parasiticides centrally located and on open display so you know exactly what you're dealing with. Are you having a problem loss due to expiration? Designate a central, visible location as the "drug morgue," and put expired drugs there. Seeing the loss in your face ups the squirm factor and helps everybody be more mindful of the importance of accurate inventory.
2. Do the audit!
Oh, the weather outside is frightful ... and nobody wants to visit the veterinary hospital in December. So why not use downtime for a parasiticide inventory audit?
Boy, THAT sounds fun! Maybe you'd rather stick a needle in your eye, but that inventory strategist you promoted is probably chomping at the bit to make the system her own, so ask her to do it.
Before you do anything, you need to know how much you have. It can be daunting, so empower your inventory strategist to break up the counting with color stickers or permanent marker marks or whatever. Ask your strategist to find out how much you're carrying versus what you need to keep parasiticides available, convenient and affordable for your customers.
Instruct your inventory strategist to review the top 20 percent of parasiticide inventory and what's sold to the top 20 percent of your clientele. Both of these likely generate 80 percent of your practice's revenue. Keep those big products available, affordable and convenient.
3. Use your software!
Learning how to really use the inventory part of your practice software requires effort, and there's always that fear that it'll wind up being inaccurate and require a physical count anyway. But used properly, inventory sofware generates reorder lists, easily manages pricing and markups, and can't get lost like that clipboard that has a hard copy version of the parasiticide inventory from the 1980s.
It's time to get modern. No, software still can't automatically increase staff accountability, efficiency and practice profitability, but inventory software remains the single-most underused software module in private practice. If you're not using inventory management software, there's no time like the present to start.
(Psst! Don't want to learn to use the software? Then don't. Delegate to your inventory strategist. Remember we pitched that on the first page?)
4. Get online already!
I feel like I'm about to tell you something you already know, but humor me. When Nielsen Online surveyed 1,000 shoppers, the research firm found that the No. 1 reason consumers shop online is convenience-81 percent versus 46 percent who shop online for low prices. More than anything, your clients want convenience, and if they don't find it from you, they'll go elsewhere.
No internet for me!
So, if your veterinary practice still lives in the technological dark ages, there are still things you can do to remedy your winter parasiticide doldrums:
> Give your clients the ability to buy products from you before and after work
> Provide a quick and easy sales process (I was in the Apple store the other day, and my entire transaction took less than a minute)
> Offer competitive prices. Or go online and make money even when you're sleeping. Your choice.
The same goes for parasiticides. According to a recent Vetstreet survey of 1,000 pet owners, 63 percent said an online pharmacy would mean they'd be more compliant with heartworm and flea product repurchasing. There are several online pharmacies that work with veterinary hospitals- Vets First Choice, Vetstreet, Vetcentric, ProxyRX and others-that profit-share on items sold online. Some of the platforms had the added benefit of alerting the practice when clients fail to refill their prescriptions, which gives your front-desk team the chance to follow up with clients.
Fetch dvm360 educator Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, scuba and participating in triathlons.