When I was in high school, I had a part-time job as a veterinary assistant in my father’s practice. After working for him for a couple of years, I was able to predict what he was planning to recommend for patients suffering from common maladies, like ear infections and skin problems, and I knew what he was going to do during routine surgeries and preventive care visits. My father practiced medicine in his own way, and I learned how he liked things to be done.

But not every veterinarian would make the same recommendations my father made. Not every veterinarian would perform routine surgeries and preventive care visits in the same way my father did. When a practice has multiple doctors, it is common to see inconsistencies in medical care and client service.

Why set treatment standards and medical protocols?

Many practice owners and managers I’ve worked with are concerned about implementing treatment standards and medical protocols because they don’t want to dictate how to practice medicine to their colleagues. But medical protocols aren’t meant to be rigid rules. Instead, they should be a guideline for the entire team to follow to promote consistency in what is being recommended to clients.

Creating standard medical protocols/groupings in your practice management software will:

  • Encourage consistency of medical care and client service
  • Empower the team
  • Improve efficiency in the daily workflow
  • Improve fee capture so charges aren’t missed
  • Promote compliance with the best treatment care plans
  • Serve as a useful tool for recent graduates as they learn to provide consistent, high-quality care during each case they see

By having standard medical protocols in your practice, you are able to leverage your team in a variety of facets. For example, the client care representatives are able to give information to clients about possible testing and treatment options over the phone before they come in to your hospital. Keep in mind: Client care representatives are not diagnosing the problem. They are educating your clients about the standard of care routinely provided in your practice.

Here’s an example scenario: A client calls your practice because his dog has been scratching his ears constantly for three days. The client wants to know what the problem might be and how much it will cost to cure it. The client care representative could be empowered to say one of the following:

SCENARIO A: “Mrs. Jones, I can’t give you any information other than you need to schedule an appointment for Fido, and  the cost of an office visit is $50.”

SCENARIO B: “Mrs. Jones, based on what you’re describing, our doctors will likely want to run some tests to identify the culprit of Fido’s itchy ears. I would be happy to provide an estimate for the standard testing and treatment options we recommend. Since Dr. Smith hasn’t yet seen Fido to diagnose the problem, this is just an estimate, but it will give you some idea of what may take place when you bring Fido in for the appointment.”

Which scenario do you think your clients would prefer? Empowering the client care representatives, assistants, and technicians in your practice to educate clients is not only good customer service, it also can be a huge time saver and can help every member of the team feel important. By having standard medical protocols in place, your team is able to educate clients and pave the way for the veterinarian to practice medicine effectively.

An example medical protocol

I offer all of my clients a comprehensive list of diagnostic and treatment protocols. Here’s an example of the procedures that could be included in the protocol for a possible foreign body obstruction:

Physical examination
Ear cytology
Culture and sensitivity
Remove ear hair
Ear flushing
Antibiotic injection or prescription
Ear cleaning solution

How to implement treatment standards and medical protocols

  1. Meet with your team to discuss the best level of care for the common maladies you treat in your practice.
  2. Document what the team decides by creating groupings or bundles in your practice management software.
  3. Train your team to the standards and the reasons for providing that level of care in your practice.

Have questions about setting standards in your practice? My Relationship Centered Practice Academy—the most comprehensive online veterinary practice management course available—addresses that and so much more. Looking for a more personal touch? Check out my one-on-one consulting services.