Veterinary clinics have the unique challenge of having to perform several different types of appointments a day, from dental cleanings to surgery and back again to euthanasia.
This can wear on a veterinarian VERY quickly – but if they establish strong scheduling practices, they can get through the day with their team in a breeze.
We’ve compiled several different scheduling practices, such as implementing a routine with your staff, setting aside some time for emergencies, and offering your clients multiple avenues to schedule an appointment.
Establish a Routine With Your Staff
During busy days, your staff will be the support team needed for you to guide through appointments with ease. Assign very specific tasks with individuals that they’re in charge of, so that your team can divide and conquer.
Keep the routine going! If one of your team members is unexpectedly ill or can’t make it into the clinic that day, your team will know exactly what needs to be done and how to divide it up among the other individuals.
By creating a consistent routine, your staff will be able to create more efficient processes for their dedicated tasks, making the whole clinic run a little bit smoother.
Set-Up Dedicated Times for Specific Types of Appointments
Some doctors like to set aside dedicated times for more intricate procedures, like surgery. If this is the case, try scheduling the appointments that require a little more focus time early in the morning. According to behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, you are more likely to get the most stuff done in the morning.
By tapping into this intense focus in the morning, this leaves the rest of the afternoon for tasks that your team can assist you with, leaving you free to do things such as discuss treatments with patients and answering any pressing matters.
This also gives the pets who are in surgery some time to recuperate under the guidance of the clinic staff. If there were any sorts of complications within the surgery, your team can help you monitor the patient after the fact.
Reserve Windows of Time for Emergencies or Walk-Ins
Similar to blocking off specific times for surgeries and other types of appointments that require more focused attention, try to block off some time slots for walk-ins or emergency appointments. If no appointments end up getting booked, you can use that time to prepare for future appointments, handle more clerical tasks or even just take 10-15 minutes for yourself.
If you have a multi-doctor practice, it’s important to schedule those blocks of time throughout the day so that there will always be a doctor available if the emergency arises. For example, check out the calendar below as an example:
Offer Multiple Channels for Scheduling an Appointment
Your clinic is busy, your clients are busy, and sometimes it’s really hard to sit down to stop and schedule an appointment with somebody. To combat this issue, try offering several different channels to schedule an appointment.
Offer them a way to book an appointment online, over the phone, and through a mobile app. According to PetDesk internal data, 65% of appointments made through the PetDesk app were made after clinic hours. By giving your clients the opportunity to schedule an appointment on their time means that more clients will schedule appointments.
Minimize the Number of Options Offered
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with choices. Say your client requests a wellness appointment on Saturday. If you respond with, “We have appointment slots available at 9:00, 9:05, 9:10, 12:15, 12:20, 12:25, 12:30…” your client is going to get overwhelmed very quickly.
Instead of offering them every single appointment time currently available, give them a window of time they can choose from. So instead of listing times out, say, “We have a window available between 12:00 pm and 2:30 pm. Does that work for you?”
This gives the client a little bit more flexibility in terms of choosing their desired appointment time. This limits the number of choices that the client has to make, and narrows it down much quicker than listing out times.
PetDesk has discovered that it’s easier for both parties to find an available time if a window of time is offered. By scheduling appointments through the mobile app, it makes it more convenient for both clinic staff and pet parents to find an appointment time that works, without ever having to pick up the phone.
Stagger the Flow of Traffic
Trying to manage a whole herd of animals is difficult. So instead of telling several appointments to show up right at clinic opening, schedule them a few minutes apart so that you can have a steady flow of traffic, so you can avoid a huge rush every 30 minutes.
This is also more convenient for your clients as well. Many pets may be more calm with fewer animals and distractions around them. This could make for an easy vet visit and less hassle both for the pet parent and the health care providers.
Forward Book Appointments
If your client needs to schedule a follow-up appointment, schedule them while they’re still there with you in the office. This ensures that they will receive the proper care needed WHEN they need it. This is especially true for appointments like suture or cast removals.
This technique can work for annual wellness appointments, as well. Most likely, your client isn’t going to know what they’re doing that far into the future, so they’ll schedule the appointment and then forget about it. This benefits both parties because you’ll be able to remind them of this appointment they made, and they can then pick a time that works for them keep that same appointment that was booked almost a year in advanced.
It’s important to remember that every veterinary clinic is different. Some of these tips may work for your practice, but others may not work depending on your location or client base. And remember: It takes time to notice the benefits of a change! Be sure to monitor your scheduling appointment processes, and always ask your clients and staff for feedback regarding any new changes.