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.
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 your undivided attention. 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.
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 achieve their peak productivity and complete a more significant number of tasks. With two-way texting, vet staff can 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. 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.”
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. Texting between vet staff and clients enables staff to relay realistic wait times and status updates for their pets. For example, 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.
Pet owners are naturally worried when their animals need care. 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 at a clinic.
According to Pew Research Center, around 80% of people own a cell phone, 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.
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, with 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 device from their home, their car 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 need ways to quickly collect this information without relying on phone calls.
As provider settings and veterinary hospitals deal with a rapidly changing healthcare environment, here are three reasons to implement contactless patient intake:
1. Reduce call volume
2. See patients faster
3. Focus staff on more valuable activities
Intake encompasses everything that staff need to collect before the visit, including:
· Appointment book / hold your place in line
· Visit confirmation / reminders
· Pre-visit registration
· In office, lobby, or curbside check-in system
· Chief complaint / visit reason
· Demographic information
· Consent forms
· ID card capture
· Insurance card capture
· Payment options
· Payment collection
· Review of systems
Each time a community experiences a surge in COVID-19 rates, its on-demand healthcare settings also see a spike in patient visits. 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.
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-office tablet or kiosk. Many clinics push this process further upstream to have patients complete their intake at home.
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.
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 – 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.
By contrast, contactless patient intake removes 80-90% of the data entry. Staff can re-allocate 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.
Virtual queuing and automated texts, as part of contactless patient intake, delivers all these benefits without the challenges of posting wait times.
Learn more about how ER Express supports contactless check-in workflows, including at-home and car check-in.
Kaufman Hall reports that the pandemic accelerated demand for more consumer-friendly healthcare services such as mobile check-in: https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/pandemic-spurs-consumer-friendly-healthcare-services/589023/