Weve got to stop meeting like this! Tech alternatives to face-to-face meetings

February 11, 2019
Jennifer Gaumnitz, Senior Content Specialist
Jennifer Gaumnitz, Senior Content Specialist

Jennifer Gaumnitz is a senior content specialist with dvm360.com. She has worked for the organization in its various incarnations for more than 34 years (thus, the "senior"), for several years serving as managing editor of Veterinary Medicine magazine. She has a bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with an emphasis in Science Writing and a minor in Zoology from Iowa State University.

Discover digital tools that allow you to communicate and collaborate with your veterinary team, when a meeting really isnt necessary.

Stacee Santi, DVM, is a self-avowed tech nerd and the founder of Vet2Pet, a technology company that builds mobile apps for veterinarians. She was also a veterinary practitioner for 20 years, most recently at a four-doctor veterinary hospital in Durango, Colorado. As such, she understands the demands of a busy veterinary practice. In her “Meet less, accomplish more-Team collaboration tools” session at a recent Fetch dvm360 conference, she introduced some newer digital team collaboration tools that she and her colleagues found useful in their practice.

When you have to meet, meet better

For more tips from Dr. Santi on planning and conducting productive face-to-face meetings when they can't be avoided, click here.

“I love figuring out ways to use technology to work smarter, not harder,” Dr. Santi says. “I want to share ways you can use technology to knock out communication tasks that may be a huge time waste right now.”

Let's get digital

Dr. Santi says, “Let's talk about communication and tasks that need to happen but that don't require a team meeting. There are a lot of them.” In place of face-to-face meetings, one or more of these desktop and cell phone applications could help you cut back on the number of meetings you need to hold. And bonus: All five of these are free.

RingCentral and Slack allow you to communicate with your team members and organize your own tasks. (Screenshots courtesy Dr. Stacee Santi)

RingCentral (formerly Glip) and Slack

RingCentral and Slack are team messaging apps that allow you to chat with your entire team, smaller groups or an individual. Dr. Santi says, “You can do things like have team chats, manage projects and create to-do lists for yourself and others.”

There's a similar path to set up these apps: Create an account, receive an email to verify your identity, set your password, pick a company or group name (you can make it fun!) and then invite others to join the product. Dr. Santi says, “Don't try to do too much. Start simple. Make a channel or two, a group or two, and start chatting. See if you like the product.”

Dr. Santi says her clinic had a Case Collaboration Chat Room where team members talked about particular cases, made notes to themselves and shared files.

Dr. Santi says that she also uses these tools to say, “Thank you!” or “Good job!” to team members.

“I get to the end of the day and think, ‘Oh, I should tell everyone thank you,' but it seems awkward or artificial to go around and say it,” Dr. Santi says. “But I can fire off a message and acknowledge people.”

Trello makes planning on multiple fronts a breeze and allows for easy collaboration.

Trello

Dr. Santi says, “I like RingCentral and Slack, but I love Trello! Trello is my favorite. Imagine you have a giant whiteboard and you marry it with sticky notes.”

Trello can be used for planning team meetings, goal reporting, product discussions and brainstorming. She says you can also use it for life management-one of her team members manages her children's activities, keeping a Trello board for each child.

With different boards and individual cards on the boards, Dr. Santi says, you can organize your thoughts and activities. You can invite individuals, the whole front-desk staff or the whole team to a particular board or an individual card on a board. You can make it very targeted, and you can ensure that all of the details everyone needs are provided for, say, something like a team dinner.

“You can avoid the forever-long email threads that nobody likes anymore,” she says. You can also assign due dates and assign tasks to different individuals.

At Dr. Santi's former practice, they had a doctors-only Trello board. The topics included medical questions, management duties and clinic repairs. As an example, she says, “We had a doctor post a GDV (gastric-dilatation volvulus) card. We had two GDV patients come in close together-one died, one lived. We used Trello to discuss the difference between the cases.” She says doctors posted the latest articles on GDV treatments and information they had learned in recent lectures.

“We found that one of the doctors wasn't shotgun bolusing enough fluids on the preload, [because] she had been taught a different way,” she says. “We collaborated [using Trello] and decided on a standard of care for treating GDV.”

For more communication hacks, click through to the next page.

 

Engage in verbal and nonverbal communication with Zoom. Zoom

Dr. Santi says, “Zoom is like Skype but in a Brady Bunch style,” with boxes on the screen featuring participants in an online meeting room. With the free version of Zoom, you can have up to 100 participants (not that you would ever want that many, she says). Dr. Santi says the free version also cuts off the meeting at 40 minutes: “That's cool, because nobody likes a two-hour meeting.”

Because more than 90 percent of communication is nonverbal, Dr. Santi says you'll see an improvement in understanding: “You will have amazingly better meetings if you do them virtually where you can see everyone.” She says you can have staff members join your meetings using their computers or cell phones if they cannot all be onsite for a meeting.

“People really like that, if they have a day off and your meetings are mandatory,” she says. “They download the app for their phone, then you share a meeting code with them, and they're in the meeting.” Zoom also allows you to share your computer screen with conference participants.

Google Drive

Dr. Santi says that Google Drive is an ideal place to store information so everyone in your practice has access to it. “Google Drive is kind of like your own cloud server,” Dr. Santi says.

It's a handy place to organize things like schedules, employee manuals, client handouts, practice processes and links to how-to videos. With Google Drive, you can create folders and subfolders to organize your content. It does require a participant to have a Google account to access it. You can invite others to share files or folders and can set permissions on the documents so that they can be viewed, but not edited.

Should you pay for cell phones used in practice?

“If you're having your team use their cell phones inside your business, you could be liable for paying for their cell phones, especially in the state of California,” says Dr. Santi. If you're going to have your team members use one of these apps or online tools routinely, she suggests that you might want to consider paying for their cell phone plan. If you do pay for a cell plan for employees, you'll also have a little more control over what team members are doing with their cell phones during business hours.

Bonjoro

Dr. Santi uses the Bonjoro app as a fun way to send warm, fuzzy videograms to her team members and her clients. With the app, you record a video message and then send it directly to an email address.

“That might not sound all that exciting, except there's no upload or download time,” she says. “If you're trying to give a team member great recognition, wouldn't this be a cool way to do it?”

Bonjoro messages might also be a way to have your practice stand out from the noise, she says.

“This has huge potential for client engagement,” Dr. Santi says. “Imagine you saw a new client for the first time. At the end of the day, you could send them a video message saying, ‘Hey, it was great to meet you. I'm so glad you chose us to be your provider. I look forward to working with you.'”

Your Bonjoro message can include your clinic logo, and you can add a call to action in the email. The person receiving the email with your video does not need to have the Bonjoro app. Dr. Santi says, “Something like this doesn't actually take very long [and] the return on your efforts is huge, because not everyone is doing this.” 

I want to get digital

So, where do you start with all these apps? “Pick one digital tool that looks appealing to you,” Dr. Santi says. “You have to try it on like a pair of shoes. You've got to see if it fits you. Just because I say I like it, doesn't mean it will work in your world. You should try it out yourself first, before you roll it out to your team.”