8 Tips for Veterinary Professionals to Not Just Survive, but Thrive During the COVID-19 Crisis

Todd Marcum CMO Hippo Manager

Dr. Todd Marcum, DVM

Chief Medical Officer, Hippo Manager Software

In most ways I am just like you. I love my pets and I love veterinary medicine. I have been in involved in the veterinary profession for over 30 years and practiced small animal medicine for over 20 years. My daughter Annie is in her clinical rotations at Auburn.  I not only love being a veterinarian but I love helping veterinarians and the veterinary profession as a whole. During this corona virus crisis, I want to help you see how Hippo Manager can be an asset for you to deal with new workflow challenges.

The problem is, of course, that we are all in a helping profession. Pets are still getting sick and need our help. We have been designated by the government as an essential business and are allowed to stay open. Helping pets makes us feel good and it will not feel good to know that your clients and their pets need your help, and you can’t help them as much as you would like. Additionally, some emergency veterinary clinics are overwhelmed with non-life-threatening emergencies because primary care facilities have closed or reduced their case load. There are some good options to figure out a happy medium.

First let’s review what I think it would mean to thrive:

  • You and your team would stay as safe as possible
  • No one would have to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe
  • All pet owners and especially those that are high-risk would be able to stay safe
  • Pets receive the care they need
  • Both farm animals and pets would be kept as healthy as possible to prevent other zoonotic diseases
  • You as the business owner or manager would maintain a financially solvent business for yourself and all the people you employ.

Second let’s review the barriers to thriving:

  • We must maintain social distancing
  • It is likely that you either have or are considering closing your waiting room. This seems to be the current standard of care.
  • You may have fewer team members available because of their own concerns.
  • We haven’t seen it yet, but you could run short on supplies.
  • Your practice may have a culture of hesitancy, or even an unwillingness, to change.
Useful Veterinary Practice Tips for COVID-19
Tip #1: Involve your whole team in the decision-making process.

They will have good ideas and they will want to have a voice in sharing how comfortable they are with various policies. What is guaranteed disaster is a 100% top down mandate that all things will be done your way because you are the owner. Hippo Manager has a coaching services division that can help you set up highly productive team meetings and many other practice management best practices. We also have a variety of team building exercises that will help engage everyone.

Tip #2: Communicate and Over-communicate

Let your clients and the general public know you are open to help them. There will be a few minor changes to your cycle of service. Do this with your website, social media, email blasts and text blasts. Even snail mail if you think that is effective. It is possible that they assume you are closed and go straight to the ER. Hippo Manager integrates with PetDesk and with AllyDVM. Both are excellent tools for client communication.

Tip #3: Utilize multiple modalities of communication

Everyone and every generation has preferred forms of communication. I like text messages; you may like social media, other people still like a phone call. As a savvy business owner, you need to use them all! What doesn’t work is one size fits all.

Consider adding ZipWhip as a communication tool. It’s two-way texting that allows you to have communications and virtual care as part of the medical record. It’s important to note that you are not texting your clients on your personal phone. Through the integration with Hippo Manager, you send messages using your practice phone number, and it is saved and accessible through their medical record. If you are providing an in-person exam with no owner present, want to send post-op or observation updates, or are starting to provide virtual care, you can text images and results to the owner via ZipWhip.

Tip #4: Utilize Telehealth or Virtual Care

I will review several options for you if you are not familiar with them all.

  • The first would be to engage a telehealth company that is not integrated with your hospital and doesn’t have access to your client’s medical records. This is more of a triage service much like if your clients were to call a physical emergency clinic. They will pay for this telehealth conference but without the medical records the telehealth professional is limited in what they can do.
  • Secondly would be for you to try and have a synchronized telehealth conference with a client using an app like “Facetime” or “Skype”. This is a nice feature for you to interact with your client but the likelihood of getting Fluffy or Fido to cooperate is low. Plus, you would have to re -enter all of this information into the pet’s medical record.
  • The best option in my opinion is what I call asynchronous virtual care. The client texts the hospital, and this shows up as part of the medical record that you can respond to on your computer or tablet. Now detailed history, pictures and videos are all part of the medical record. You can follow up with them via ZipWhip text from the medical record as well. This is an incredible feature that allows you to work from anywhere and saves multiple steps.
Tip #5: Utilize drop off curbside appointments

To be compliant with social distancing requirements, it is likely that you have already closed your waiting room. If not, I would strongly encourage you to consider this as this seems to be the new standard of care.

Many clinics are very successfully implementing a curbside service. Instead of checking in at the reception desk, the owner texts or calls when they are in the parking lot, and then a team member goes out to the parking lot or curb and gets the pet. For this approach, I strongly suggest implementing a double leashing policy to prevent escapes! Depending on what works best, the owner either waits in the car or comes back after the appointment.

After the visit, the owner can give you credit card information over the phone to reduce touch points of swiping a credit card. You can easily type the credit card into Clearent, a credit card processing service that is fully integrated in Hippo Manager. In typical use cases, Clearent saves your staff about 30 minutes a day over a third-party payment processor, and Clearant guarantees that they meet or beat your payment processing fees. It is safe and secure for your team – you can use wireless terminals, or input credit card information directly into the online portal.

Tip #6: Give owners alternate ways to pay.

Pet owners will likely also have decreased available spending. If you can provide them options to still care for their pet, they will be very grateful. This does not mean you should allow for internal charge accounts. Alternatively, there are two very good options for you to consider.

First, consider offering Scratchpay. Hippo Manager is fully integrated with Scratchpay and we find that very few clients are denied Scratchpay credit. The pet owner applies and it usually takes less than five minutes to get approved.  Another option is to consider VCP wellness plan, which is integrated with Hippo Manager.  This service allows the pet owner to get all the services their pet needs in a year, including flea, tick and heartworm prevention.  It is divided up in 12 payments.

Tip #7: Embrace new technologies.

If you aren’t on a cloud- based practice management platform, now is the time to start that transition. Hippo Manager gives you all your practice information on any device, computer, tablet or cellphone from anywhere! You can work from home doing virtual care.

In addition to the previously mentioned technology tools, Vetsource is another option to provide home delivery medications, over-the-counter health care products and pet foods directly from the manufacturers to your patient’s front doors. They focus on the veterinarian/pet owner relationship, and this integrates directly with Hippo Manager.

Change is scary for most people but take advantage of our team of professionals to assist you. We have multiple live webinars each month for you to learn about these options and ask questions.  We also provide a robust resource library of videos, quick start guides and we provide 24 hour support for technical questions.

Tip #8: Embrace good business practices.

For many of us we feel called to the profession and business has only taken a back seat to practice because we are so busy, we haven’t been able to take the time to develop good business habits. I think veterinarians are unfairly criticized for putting practice ahead of business. I believe in the past we would all agree that good medicine = good business. But in these times, to thrive, it will take a different level of oversight to find that same success.

Because Hippo is very efficient, you will have more time to hone your business practices and spend less time on the computer doing medical records. There are three numbers that define business success: revenue, labor and cost of goods (inventory). Hippo Manager practice coaching services serves as support for your business report on these important numbers – we can help you learn how and why to use all the reports, and what they are guiding you to do to keep track of each of these variables.

It seems to me that the whole solution to this crisis is being willing to do things differently. It is one thing to endorse social distancing, but it requires even more thoughtfulness to embrace new technology, processes and workflows that allows for social distancing without giving up your WHY of helping pets.

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