In March this year everything changed, we went into a nationwide lockdown and the veterinary profession, along with everyone else had to make adjustments to the way in which we work, live and communicate with those around us. This has continued later int he year at the begining of November the nation goes into lockdown once again.
I’m not a vet, but our business works along side your profession and recently I’ve been thinking a lot about communication, not just for Veterinary IT Services, but the practices that we’ve worked with over the years, and how to communicate effectively whilst we are in this locked down socially distant limbo for the next 6 months or so.
It’s a hugely important part of your job. It underpins the entire success of your practice, your patient care and your own career. In fact, vet schools are putting increasing emphasis on teaching communication to new cohorts for this very reason. But how do you keep communication to the same standards during a global pandemic?
Much like us here at Veterinary IT Services, practices need to ensure that both internal and external communication is unaffected by our current circumstance, this means that our employees and teams need to be able to connect with each other from different locations and continue to deliver first class service, advice and information to our clients in an effective manner.
Communicating with your Team
We’ve seen a lot of different combinations of remote working solutions amongst the practices that we work with. Some are simply working with a reduced number of staff in the practice, others are allowing for a more flexible remote working plan for those in their staff that can (practice managers, partners and administration staff).
If you have staff working across different locations, including both multiple site practices and remote workers it’s imperative that you get the basics rights, allowing your team to function as normally as possible. The most obvious place to start is with your phone systems.
Making sure that your vets are just at the other end of the line, your farm vets are contactable whilst on site visits and you can quickly connect with the partners is essential. For this we would suggest investing in a cloud phone system (VoIP) if you don’t already have one. The benefits are:
- Making and receiving calls on your mobile, tablet or your laptop (as well as your standard handset).
- Connect multiple sites easily and cost-effectively with one system.
- Communicate across departments such as receptionists forwarding calls to one of your vets (without passing their personal mobile to the client).
- Instant messaging between your team, making quick direct communication easy whilst your workforce is dispersed.
- Video Calling and Ad hoc Conferencing, which is great for internal meetings whilst your team are scattered between home and the practice.
Communicating with your Clients
If you aren’t communicating effectively with your clients, then your practice is going to struggle and the care you are trying to give to you patients is going to suffer. One of the most frustrating situations for a pet owner is trying to contact your vet and not being able to get through. If your team are working across multiple sites (including remote working) its important that this doesn’t become the norm.
Making sure that there is always somebody available to take an emergency call from a distressed pet owner and that your clients can call to book appointments is key to a practice’s success. For this we would suggest investing in a cloud phone system if you don’t already have one. The benefits are:
- Making and receiving calls no matter where you are on your mobile, tablet or your laptop (as well as your standard handset).
- If your receptionist is busy, automatically direct the call to the next available person.
- Keep communication professional by making outbound calls as the practice phone number no matter what device you are using.
- Easily transfer calls across departments such as receptionists forwarding calls to one of your vets (without passing their personal mobile to the client).
- Video Calling which is great for update calls to clients whilst their pet is admitted, discharge appointments when they are ready to go home internal meetings whilst your team are scattered between home and the practice.
Taking your pet to the vets can be a stressful experience for any pet owner and admitting them into hospital can be even more difficult, especially if it’s for emergency care or treatment. It’s important that communication during this period is kept as simple as possible as the likelihood is that your client won’t remember a lot of the information that you give them, so they will need to be able to take it away with them to read at home.
This is even more imperative during this time of socially distant appointments conducted via your telemedicine platform or over the phone whilst your client waits in their car. The material should be available digitally, be brief and be visually appealing. There are lots of systems out there that you can use for this, such as Canva or Adobe Spark, but if you have a Microsoft 365 account you can use the App ‘Sway’ for free as it is part of your subscription, which enables you and your team to quickly and easily produce professional, interactive, and appealing documents. It also has a load of features that can make this content more dynamic and client friendly.
- Create health plans, treatment instructions or information leaflets without the need of having high level IT or design expertise, so is perfect for your average vet.
- Easily embed video and audio with little fuss. An example of this would be a basic video on how to administer worming treatment, search for and remove ticks and cleaning dogs’ teeth. All of these seem simple enough to professionals but might be daunting for a first-time pet owner.
- An added benefit is that you can see how many people access and view these documents in real time, so you will know which owners have read the information you’ve provided. This will give you some insight into whether or not you need to address this information again.
By communicating with your clients through these different mediums you are hopefully connecting with them in a way that suits them and give them the opportunity to properly digest the information you are giving them.
As we become more comfortable with the new normal of not being in the same building as your colleagues and not being in a consult room with your clients it becomes imperative that we do not lapse into a state of apathy when it comes to communication. Its all too easy to use social distancing as an excuse, but now is the time to step up and use every tool we can to ensure that we are going that extra mile to be a thorough as we can be with our opportunities to communicate.
If you have any questions about the systems mentioned in this article, feel free to book a time for a quick chat with one of our veterinary IT experts. Just click here for the calendar.