An increase in pet ownership during 2020 has led to a rise in the volume of needed veterinary care, resulting in frustrated pet owners and vet staff. Working at an animal hospital comes with challenges, especially since your patients can’t tell you what’s wrong or how they feel. You have to rely on a pet owner’s explanation, and that involves communication.
In the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, 69 million American households own dogs and over 40 million own cats. This results in approximately one-third of the national population having either or both in their homes.
Unfortunately, your patients cannot tell you what is wrong or how they feel. Overcoming this central challenge of working at an animal hospital relies on a pet owner’s explanation. Communication must be at the forefront to facilitate the best treatment possible.
Most Americans own a mobile device and use it regularly. Whether browsing the internet, interacting on social media, or speaking with others, these devices are constantly nearby and actively engaged with.
Using two-way texting, you can reach pet owners through a device that they are comfortable with using. Allowing someone to simply text a response to your message at their convenience creates a more efficient and effective environment for quality discussions regarding their pet’s health.
When using two-way texting, this generates multiple benefits for your office, but there are three particular perks that stand out above the rest.
Besides treating and caring for animals, the goal of a vet office is to make the business run smoothly, and one of the ways to do that is by adding two-way texting between vet staff and pet owners. It can help the logistics for your front office staff while also helping improve the experience for your clients. Below are three reasons to engage your pet owners using two-way texting.
A phone call requires both your undivided attention and the pet owner’s. While undivided attention is needed for specific tasks like resolving a complaint or explaining pet treatment plans to clients, simple tasks don’t require intense focus.
While your staff waits for information – like prescriptions and coordinating time that works with their schedule, they can quickly handle another easy task, like replying to a simple query from another pet owner. Using a two-way texting software, communication can be facilitated completely from a device that your staff members normally work on, which allows for greater ownership over the data and does not require employees to use their own devices.
Implementing two-way texting between staff and pet parents allows your team to spend less time on the phone and checking in pets in the lobby. Texting ensures that your front desk staff achieves their peak productivity and completes a significantly greater number of important tasks.
With two-way texting, vet staff can also send clients digital registration and consent forms to complete, which cuts down on errors and time spent with each client as they bring their pet in. As an added bonus, this enables the client to spend more time thoughtfully going through their check-in process and provide your office with more thorough information for your veterinary staff to work off of during the appointment.
To provide a real-world example, a 24/7 Veterinary ER in Grand Rapids, MI, implemented ER Express’s Mobile Check-in, reduced their call volume by five phone calls per client, and improved communication by allowing staff to share more frequent updates with clients and avoid “phone tag.” Instead, a steady stream of messages between the office and their clients was established throughout the entire pre-visit process.
With an increased number of pet owners over the past few years, animal hospitals have become overbooked and overcrowded. How veterinary clinics communicate with clients during these times impacts both patient care and client satisfaction.
In scenarios where your office’s capacity and bandwidth are stressed, setting accurate expectations with clients benefits everyone. Your staff can quickly respond to inquiries while your clients have a clearer picture of the current activity level at your office.
As an example, two-way texting between vet staff and clients enables staff to relay realistic wait times and status updates for their pets. Say the clinic is full and won’t be able to treat a dog for another three hours; staff members can inform pet owners via text, so they can wait at home until a staff member says they are ready to give care or, alternately, that treatment has been provided and they can come to pick up their pet.
This level of communication enhances your office’s ability to best serve your clients and their pets by allowing them to more accurately plan their days around treatment times. Two-way texting can prove especially beneficial for pet owners that work during the day and follow a tight schedule.
Beyond convenience, texting can also aid in alleviating worries that a pet owner might have when their pet is being seen without them present. It’s understandable that they are naturally concerned about their pet’s wellbeing and want to receive updates.
In a 2019 Frontiers in Veterinary Science Study, most clients expect updates regarding their pets’ treatment status, with 27% preferring to be updated every two to three hours and 35% every four to six hours. Instead of calling the clinic, clients can quickly receive updates on their pet’s triage status, subsequent wait time, health status, and even treatment plans via text. This helps to ease clients’ worries, stay connected and improve their overall experience.
According to Pew Research Center, around 97% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, making texting an effective communication option. Texting offers clients a faster, more convenient way to communicate with vet staff. It only takes a few seconds to send a text, eliminating the hassle of calling the office (and waiting on hold if busy) to try and figure out a time to bring your pet in.
Similarly, if you have last-minute updates—if the Vet is running late or had an emergency come in, for example—text messaging may be the best way to notify your client. And, with one-to-one text messaging, clients can respond in real-time to confirm receipt of your message or ask questions.
Adding texting features to your practice also enables you to more efficiently manage your schedule through communication. A client could confirm their appointment, reschedule, or cancel their visit through a simple text message so that your staff can quickly remove this booked time slot from your calendar so that it can be taken by another.
Veterinary practices can significantly improve their operations by embracing two-way texting as a communication channel for client engagement. ER Express Mobile Vet Check-in allows vet staff and pet owners to communicate via two-way texting. Mobile Check-in provides efficient communication while minimizing staff tasks and setting expectations for clients. At check-in or after triage, and with just one click, staff can send messages to clients with estimated wait times for their pet, so they know how long the wait will be. Additionally, if your clinic is trying to minimize having pet owners in the lobby, two-way texting supports virtual waiting, curbside check-in, and queuing processes.
Click HERE to check out one of our customer success stories where a Vet ER utilized Mobile check-in to reduce call volume, speed up throughput times and improve client satisfaction.
Contactless patient intake digitizes the workflow that enables patients to check in for scheduled and walk-in visits at veterinary ERs, urgent care clinics, and hospital emergency centers using their own devices from their homes, cars, or any other location.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed patient check-in from a matter of convenience to one of safety. Safety protocols combined with multiple surges in transmission rates have heightened the need to collect patients’ signatures, demographic information, ID and insurance images via digital devices instead of pre-pandemic norms that often relied on manual, in-person workflows.
In addition to reducing potential virus exposure for both patients and staff, staff needed ways to quickly collect this information without relying on phone calls.
Though we are now largely living in a post-pandemic world, many of these features have remained fixtures in medical facilities. For example, wearing a face mask in urgent cares and ERs is still commonplace and many patients continue to appreciate the convenience of cutting down time spent in the waiting room and filling out digital intake forms from a more comfortable location.
On a practical level, this makes sense for medical organizations. By continuing some of the safety measures introduced during COVID-19’s peak, you can also potentially help prevent the transmission of other airborne illnesses and place less administrative burden on your staff by having them manage intake paperwork manually.
Today, there are still three primary benefits that providers can enjoy from continuing to use contactless patient intake, including:
Intake encompasses everything that staff needs to collect before the visit, including:
Anytime a community experiences a common health condition, like during flu season, call volumes and demand for services also increase. Typically, call volume spikes as patients call for information about hours, appointment availability, test results and wait times.
However, the largest driver of call volume comes from the need to remotely collect intake information, via phone call. Each patient typically triggers one to two inbound calls, plus two to three outbound calls.
Each of these calls last five to seven minutes on average, with some urgent care clinics receiving 30 inbound registration calls in the first 10 minutes of the day. In turn, time spent fielding calls means more time away from other aspects of your operations and serving patients presently at your facility.
Digital contactless patient intake immediately reduces this call volume by enabling patients to submit all of their intake information from their mobile device or in-lobby tablet or kiosk. Many clinics push this process further upstream to have patients complete their intake at home.
You don’t have to take what we’re saying at face-value, though. Learn more about how an animal hospital was able to successfully eliminate five phone calls per visit using ER Express.
Picture this: an urgent care clinic opens at 8:00 am and has twenty patients already at the door. Signage directs them to call the front desk to register. The clinic staffs two phone lines and can register a patient in five minutes on average.
Guess what time the 20th patient gets registered? Probably not until almost 9:00 am! This phenomenon, sometimes dubbed “a line just to get in line,” can add 30% to the average length of staff.
However, contactless patient intake vastly reduces the intake time because it enables almost unlimited simultaneous, parallel registration. Reimagine the above scenario: twenty patients all start filling in their intake information from their phones.
While some patients will complete it faster than others (depending on whether they have visited before, need to update their insurance, etc.), all 20 will get registered by 8:10 am. Staff can review, triage, and prioritize all twenty patients. They can spot the patient presenting with shortness of breath or the dog that ate chocolate immediately.
As a result, patients with more urgent medical needs can be treated more quickly than others who may just be visiting for a minor complaint. By prioritizing patients based on need, you can more efficiently move them through treatment and more accurately allocate the appropriate resources to do so.
This isn’t just a hypothetical scenario. With the right solutions in place, it’s achievable. One urgent care clinic measured 30% shorter throughput times after it implemented contactless patient intake.
Manual intake consumes front office staff efforts on data entry related activities. This can include tasks such as verbally getting information from the patient, typing it into the practice management system, scanning insurance cards, and then uploading those images, etc.
Additionally, they spend time answering the same set of questions related to managing patients’ expectations, most often around wait times. With a contactless, digital system, you can proactively provide answers to these frequently asked questions and set accurate expectations for patients that are considering visiting your practice.
As an added benefit, contactless patient intake removes 80-90% of the data entry. Staff can reallocate their time toward more valuable activities such as verifying eligibility insurance, collecting payment, or helping patients with unique circumstances (out-of-towners, out-of-network benefits, etc.).
In addition, contactless intake can include text message updates that give patients answers about why they can expect to wait longer than normal as well as how many patients have signed in ahead of them. This transparency enables them to make more-informed decisions about when to plan their visit so that they can have a more enjoyable experience that better suits their preferences.
Virtual queuing and automated texts, as part of contactless patient intake, delivers all these benefits without the challenges of posting wait times. Your staff will not have to manage any of the communication directly, enabling them to spend more of their time focused on more impactful aspects of their roles at your animal emergency department, urgent care, or ER.
At ER Express, we support animal health practices, urgent cares, and emergency departments with innovative patient engagement and digital intake software, enabling you to offload many recurring administrative tasks and simultaneously manage patient expectations. Learn more about how ER Express supports contactless check-in workflows, including at-home and car check-in.