Optimal appointment times for veterinary clinics

September 4, 2019
Julie Reck, DVM

Julie Reck, DVM, owns Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Heres how to empower front-desk staff to know whether a veterinary appointment is going to be by the book or if it will require some extra time for diagnostics or education.

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So, when receptionists at Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill in South Carolina used to set up appointments, they'd ask an obvious question: “Do you have any additional concerns?” Practice owner Julie Reck, DVM, suspects that something unspoken may have been going on when clients responded, “Nope!”

“People won't necessarily be honest right then,” Dr. Reck says, imagining that this runs through clients' heads: “I'll just tell the doctor when I get there.”

Want better-trained receptionists?

For better results, take the time to train now. Start here. Or here. And here's a cheat sheet to get everyone thinking about how best to schedule.

And that, of course, drops a big time-management land mine in everyone's day when a wellness visit with “no concerns” turns into a detailed, multipronged look at three different issues the client is worrying about.

Now, Dr. Reck encourages front-desk team members to ask a little more detailed follow-up question: “Do you have any concerns beyond just a wellness exam for Fluffy? Knowing this now helps me make sure the doctor will have enough time to address your concerns.”

Clients who otherwise might have dismissed the receptionist's expertise now know the front-desk team member is thinking ahead and has the doctor's ear and attention. They may also appreciate knowing that they won't feel rushed during the upcoming visit.

This isn't just good for clients, says Dr. Reck: It's good for vet team members.

“We're advocating for wellness and job satisfaction here,” she says. “We're perfectionists who take this really seriously, and it's really hard with 25 appointments in a day to be asked about 25 other things. There's no way to do that well. If we budget 10 minutes for a wellness discussion, but we need another 15 minutes to educate about an ear infection, we're not doing well.”

If receptionists gather more information from the start, get it into the right system in practice, and everyone down the line reads and responds to that additional information, everyone wins. 

Get out there and ask!