A surprising number of veterinarians offer the option of house call services to their clients. This number is only expected to grow, particularly given the current pandemic situation. But being a mobile practitioner is not without its challenges. Logistically speaking, keeping on schedule when delivering care outside the confines of the clinic can be quite difficult. Thankfully, with a little planning and the right strategy in place, you can effectively manage your time, keeping clients happy and avoiding burnout, regardless of where you happen to be practicing. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Be strategic about where and when your appointments are scheduled. If you are booking more than one off-site appointment in a week, try to plan them in a logical way to avoid too much running around. For instance, schedule appointments based on their geographic locations. If possible, choose a specific area to cover for each day of the week. That way you’re not running from one end of town to the other and wasting valuable time in the process.
Plan for more than just the appointment itself. Many busy vets forget this important detail, focusing only on the time they anticipate needing for the actual session and neglecting the time it takes to prep and regroup in between appointments. As a result, they end up feeling rushed and overwhelmed, and the calendar starts getting backed up. Whether you manage your own schedule or someone else on your team handles it, make sure to build extra time in around each appointment. It’ll keep everything running much more smoothly.
Help your clients help you. When a client is fully prepared, the appointment will flow much more efficiently. Don’t just assume your clients will be ready for you. Be proactive. For example, when a client calls to book a calendar slot, provide instructions or send a list of what they should do in advance of the appointment. Not every client will follow through, but even if a few do, it’ll make your life much easier.
Schedule activities for when you are most productive. Be honest with yourself. Do you tend to focus better when in the office in the morning? If so, then try to schedule your most intensive work during that time and other tasks, such as your house call appointments, for later in the day. This will allow you to optimize the use of your time so you are most productive and profitable.
Establish a routine. Time management experts recommend creating a consistent routine that you can become accustomed to. For instance, it can be helpful to try and schedule all basic house calls on specific days. Likewise, setting a specified day for surgeries and other regular activities can help you keep a handle on your calendar and know what to expect when each week begins. Obviously, there will be times when you will need to deviate from this routine, but at least you’ll have a foundation to work with.
Delegate whatever work you can to other team members. This can be remarkably difficult for some of us because, as veterinarians, we have a tendency to want to handle everything on our own. Can you manage your entire practice while juggling appointments inside and outside the clinic? Sure. Should you? Not unless you’d like to end up crashing and burning. You’ve worked hard to hire an awesome team. Now let them put their skills to work and trust that they’ll get the job done so that you can make the best use of your time.
Automate as much as possible. We live in the digital age where technology has become an integral part of our lives. Take advantage of the tools available to you that can make your job and your life tremendously easier, like practice management software. When you can automate things like appointment scheduling, reminders, prescription refills and other common daily workflows, everyone on your team will be freed up to apply their human skills where they’re most needed – caring for patients and providing personalized service to clients.
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