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Case Study: Sharing Saturdays Benefits Everyone


High overtime costs prompted Gerard Gervasi, hospital administrator at Collierville Animal Clinic in Collierville, Tenn., and the practice owners to look into the financial impact of being open on Saturdays--and find a new solution.

High overtime costs prompted Gerard Gervasi, hospital administrator at Collierville Animal Clinic in Collierville, Tenn., and the practice owners to look into the financial impact of being open on Saturdays. "We determined that Saturdays were the costliest days of operation for the practice," he says. "And we found that we did not give the same level of care on Saturdays that we do the rest of the week. By the end of the week, the veterinarians and staff members are tired, and we're only open five and a half hours, which doesn't always give our team enough time to work up a sick case properly."

So Gervasi spoke with some local practices and worked out an arrangement with another practice, Collierville Pet Hospital, to start sharing Saturdays. When one clinic is closed, team members change their phone messages and post a sign on the doors directing clients to the other clinic for emergency care; the sign also asks clients who want routine care to call the office on Monday. Clients may still purchase heartworm preventive, flea protection, food, and accessories at Collierville Animal Clinic's pet resort on weekends.

"If a client from the other clinic wants routine care, we provide service as we would for our own clients," says Gervasi. "However, we do not enter client information into the computer, and we tell the client that reminders will be sent from the referring clinic. We fax back records from patients seen at the end of the day." With these ground rules, he says, the likelihood of either practice losing a client because they were closed on a Saturday is remote.

Since the start of this year, Collierville Animal Clinic has seen only 14 patients from Collierville Pet Hospital, which has seen 11 patients from Collierville Animal Clinic. And revenue and net profit increased at both clinics during the four-month trial period. "We shared these findings at our quarterly review meeting with area clinics interested in closing Saturdays," Gervasi says. "But we'll have to see how the numbers balance out at the end of the year to get a true picture of the finances."

On the service side, clients seem satisfied with the arrangement. "I admit I had some concerns about how this might affect the business," Gervasi says. "Before launching this program, we surveyed clients who visited the practice on Saturdays. An overwhelming majority had no problem coming in another day. To my surprise, not one client has complained about the new schedule."

Still not completely convinced, Gervasi surveyed 100 random clients to get some more feedback, and didn't get one negative comment. "In fact," he says, "several clients asked why we don't close every Saturday!"

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