Practice Management Overhaul: Your sneak peek


Consultants share the inside scoop on the winners' progress.

So far, so good: That's what the consultants are saying about this year's Veterinary Economics Practice Management Overhaul, sponsored by IDEXX. "We have a number of projects in the works," says Pam Stevenson, CVPM, owner of Veterinary Results Management in Durham, N.C., who's working with Appalachian Animal Hospital in East Ellijay, Ga. "Based on our interview, we noted seven key areas for improvement with a number of options per area." Stevenson cautioned them to choose two or three to start with so as not to overwhelm the leadership, staff, or infrastructure of the practice. Of the seven areas, Stevenson identified client service as needing the most work.

Besides shortening client waiting times—a key issue identified for the hospital during the Overhaul judging process—Stevenson and team want to improve the client's overall experience. "To make the visit better and quicker, we conducted a time study," Stevenson says. "For 10 days staff wrote down what they did every minute. It was hard, but the team was cooperative." From that time study data, Stevenson developed a new program that the hospital is now implementing. The practice will conduct a second time study this month and gather client feedback for quantifiable results on the changes.

Head for the hills: One of two winning Overhaul practices, Appalachian Animal Hospital, proves that there's strength in numbers. (Photo courtesy of Katie Calsow)

Not to be outdone, Northwest Animal Hospital in Omaha, Neb., a practice desperately seeking team unity, has been swiftly restructuring, says Donna Bauman, CVPM, owner of Visions Veterinary Consulting. As a result of her consultation, Dr. Houts, the owner, has taken over handling the staff. This may not be the ideal situation, Bauman says, but at this time it's the best strategy to bring this team back together until a leader can be identified within the practice. "Dr. Houts is amazing," Bauman says. "It's great to have a dedicated and motivated owner. That means we've won half the battle." And battles were a big part of why the hospital was picked for the Overhaul.

Northern exposure: Doctors and team members at Northwest Animal Hospital are already revolutionizing their practice, consultants say. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Jodi Houts).

"They had some a.m. vs. p.m. shift wars, with each shift claiming the other did nothing," Bauman says. To keep the peace, Bauman suggested using check-off sheets with responsibilities assigned to specific team members. "There's no more guessing who did what. The staff is clear on who is responsible for completing the tasks and the time frame to do so. To help with accountability, we're also reworking job descriptions and adding clear behavior expectations." The practice also hopes that implementing a team meeting attendance policy and twice-yearly employee evaluations will enhance team morale and efficiency.

Bauman and Dr. Houts plan to tackle phone etiquette next. "I've offered to do mystery calls for the practice to help evaluate the level of customer service that the team offers to telephone shoppers," Bauman says. "My first call was lacking in client education and bonding, so I hope to see some improvement with the training I suggested."

Stay tuned: Veterinary Economics special assignments editor and Money magazine writer John Lofflin will reveal how each practice fared in the January 2010 issue. In the meantime, click on Related Links below to find management tips you can implement in your own practice.

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