Veterinary Practice is Changing
The New Year ritual of celebrating another year passing takes on greater meaning in 2021. One thing that remains constant in veterinary medicine is change. While the pressure of change hits many professions, it seems more apparent in veterinary medicine, where there is always a need to keep up with all the new trends in patient care, along with the constant stress of keeping a small business profitable. Veterinarians have always been “Pets’ Best Friend”, but recently our role has become tougher.
This year, veterinarians continued to care for patients using exceptional means and technology, but we learned to care for owners remotely. Communicating with pet owners, horse trainers, farmers, and caregivers has always been the most important part of our day. Our means of communication has changed, and we are presented with a new struggle. How can the 2021 veterinarian be a better communicator?
Although most practices in the United States report their income in 2020 was “pandemic-proof”, most also report a shift from preventive, routine care to reactive, emergency care. Many hospitals note that while visits have increased, comprehensive, long-term care plans have been delayed. Akin to the trends seen in human medicine, veterinarians are diagnosing chronic disease later in the process, when treatment success becomes less likely.
Telemedicine, What is That?
Although 2020 saw a great increase in pet ownership (especially adoption), the current pet parent is looking for more virtual answers and split-second help. On-line veterinary consultations, provided by platforms such as Vetster, are appealing options today. Pet owners want to have a relationship with you, but they also want convenience, and many have unique time-constraints. Virtual care will continue to compete with brick-and-mortar veterinary practices.
Across all service and retail industries, curbside and concierge service has been a win-win for consumers and employees. The advent of drive-up, veterinary curbside service has limited hospital traffic, keeping our staff safer. We have adjusted to performing examinations without the owner present, oftentimes allowing veterinarians to complete the task more efficiently. Our exam findings and plans are usually communicated through a phone call. Busy pet owners appreciate the efficiency, but they have lost some of the personal touch that made our veterinary practice beloved.
Jumping into Zoom
Many of the most successful practices have embraced change, and incorporated video communication. Realizing a greater role and responsibility for our veterinary technicians, video calls allow better understanding, more efficient and effective history taking, and a preview of the medical concern, especially if the pet makes a live appearance! Reevaluating your staff roles and assigning a skilled technician as Zoom communicator saves time and results in a more thorough and efficient consultation. Corporate businesses have long understood the benefit of video conference calls; people communicate better when they can see each other’s faces.
Back to Basics: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
The greatest feedback we have gotten from our Digatherm® practices during this pandemic has been how thermal images make client communication easier. Whether printed out to share curbside, or emailed to the owner, thermal images speak loudly and clearly to communicate everything you need your pet owner to know. In fact, this past summer, many of our colleagues reported this “eureka moment” when beginning curbside service. The chaos of change initially caused them to forget all about using thermal imaging, until they realized they had the perfect tool needed to show clients every detail about the examination.
2021 Veterinarians Embracing the Change
Our practice lives will continue to evolve; some changes will stay, and some may go away. The communication improvements we choose now will only help us in the veterinary hospital of the future. Saying goodbye to 2020 gives us a great opportunity to improve in 2021. Allow this year to be the year that you improve your communication and maintain your spot as “Pets’ Best Friend”.