Cutting back on Saturdays

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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. "Saturdays were the costliest days of operation for the practice," he says. "And we didn't give the same level of care that we did the rest of the week. By the end of the week, doctors and staff members were tired, and we were only open five and a half hours, which didn't always give us enough time to work up a sick case properly."

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. "Saturdays were the costliest days of operation for the practice," he says. "And we didn't give the same level of care that we did the rest of the week. By the end of the week, doctors and staff members were tired, and we were only open five and a half hours, which didn't always give us enough time to work up a sick case properly."

The first step: Gervasi worked out an arrangement with another practice, Collierville Pet Hospital, to rotate Saturdays. When a clinic closed, the team changed its phone messages and posted a sign directing clients to the open clinic for emergency care; the sign also asked clients wanting routine care to call on Monday. Clients could still purchase heartworm preventive, flea protection, food, and accessories at Collierville Animal Clinic's pet resort on weekends.

"We provided service for clients of the other clinic as we would for our clients," says Gervasi. "But we didn't enter client information in the computer. And we faxed back records from patients seen at the end of the day." With these ground rules, he says, the likelihood of either practice losing clients was remote.

In the first four months, Collierville Animal Clinic saw 14 patients from Collierville Pet Hospital, which saw 11 patients from Collierville Animal Clinic. Revenue and net profit increased at both clinics during the trial period. And clients seemed satisfied. "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 complained about the new schedule."Still not completely convinced, Gervasi surveyed 100 random clients to get more feedback, and didn't get one negative comment. "In fact," he says, "several clients asked why we don't close every Saturday!"

At the end of this year, he will review the program again to determine whether the clinic will close every Saturday.

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