Picture this: Paul PetOwner brings Petunia, his new puppy, into ABC Animal Hospital for her first appointment. Paul and Petunia see an associate veterinarian, who administers vaccines, offers Paul guidance on training Petunia, and makes recommendations regarding pet food and preventive medications.

Because of a scheduling conflict, Paul and Petunia see a different associate for Petunia’s following appointment. That associate recommends a different pet food and tells Paul that Petunia only needs a flea and tick preventive for half the year, not the full year like the previous associate recommended.
Paul leaves ABC Animal Hospital feeling confused about what’s best for Petunia.

If ABC Animal Hospital had standards in place for all members of the team to follow, Paul would have received more consistent care and recommendations, and he wouldn’t have felt confused about how to best care for his puppy.

Standardize your practice’s preventive health care recommendations

Have you standardized your preventive health care recommendations? If you asked everyone on your team how many preventive care exams your practice recommends annually, would you get the same answer from everyone? What about vaccines? Parasite prevention? Spay/neuter? Since preventive health care services make up such a significant amount of your business, it’s important to establish standards of care in this area so your team is all on the same page and your clients and patients receive consistent care and service.

Some specific preventive care standards you should develop and implement include:

  • Physical exams — How often is an exam recommended for puppies, kittens, adults, and seniors?
  • Vaccinations — Your team should all recommend a core set of vaccines for every pet plus others based on lifestyle factors.
  • Parasite prevention — Does your practice recommend heartworm preventives year round? What about flea and tick prevention? Do you prefer to use one brand over another?
  • Routine diagnostics — At a preventive care exam, what are the core diagnostic tests every pet at your practice should receive? (More on this in next week’s blog post!)
  • Dental care — Does your practice recommend a dental cleaning and exam annually?
  • Grooming — How often does your team tell clients to have their cats’ nails trimmed? Does your practice recommend regular tooth brushing for pets? How often is “regular”?
  • Behavior — Does your practice have relationships with animal trainers in your community? Are their particular trainers or training methods you recommend? What if a cat begins clawing furniture or having accidents outside the litter box? What if a dog is leash reactive or chews on shoes? Will various members of your team recommend similar possible solutions, or will they all have their own thoughts on fixing these problems?
  • Nutrition — Thanks to effective marketing by the plethora of pet food companies out there, pet nutrition is one of the most confusing topics for pet owners. Grain free or all natural? Chicken meal or “real chicken”? Dry food or wet? Treats or no treats? Raw diets? Homemade pet foods? The options are all over the board, and your practice should have standards in place so your team is consistent with their recommendations.

Of course, there are always special situations that will require some deviance from the standards you’ve created. Perhaps Paul is a staunch believer in raw diets and will not be swayed otherwise. Even if your practice’s standard on nutrition says to avoid raw diets, it may be necessary for a veterinarian to advise Paul on the safest way to properly feed Petunia a raw diet, but still tell Paul that the veterinary health care professionals at your practice would recommend something else. Or, maybe Petunia and Paul spend the winters in Florida, so your team might recommend additional preventives or vaccines not included in your typical recommendations.

I was recently in a practice that carried a wide variety of parasite prevention and pet food products. Their inventory expense was 30 percent of their revenue, and it should be closer to 20 percent. I identified that this hospital was losing profits by carrying so many product options. The bottom line: Clients do not want options. They want recommendations from you and your team, and your team will be confident in making recommendations to clients if you have set standards in place and everyone is trained on those standards. You can even “train” clients on your standards by creating preventive health care brochures that explain your recommendations and the reasoning behind them.

Preventive care standards are only one part of the standards of care you should implement in your practice. I’ll talk about others in upcoming articles, and you can learn about all of them in my online course: the Relationship Centered Practice Academy® (RCPA), which is taking hundreds of practices across the country from good to great.

“This is the easiest way to follow a well thought out structure and get to a sustainable clinic that does not have the owner trying to be directly responsible for it all! A relationship centered practice allows a consistent client and patient experience from phone call to invoice on all activities in your hospital while giving you a life back. We are in the early stages of implementing Tracy’s teachings, and I am very happy with the buy-in from my staff and the results we are already attaining.” —D.C. Williams

Learn more about becoming a Relationship Centered Practice and setting standards in your practice here.