Today's Veterinary Business

APR 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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54 Today's Veterinary Business Leadership details that may not be true. There might have been five kittens — or seven — and maybe none are calico. Or maybe the cat didn't have her kittens yet. Should that conver- sation be prohibited by policy? Define what you mean by gossip. You might, for example, determine that when conversations about others are disruptive, or have the potential to hurt feelings or damage relation- ships, that's gossip. If it drains employees' morale, it's gossip. Model Appropriate Behavior After a long day, you might be tempted as a veterinarian or practice manager to make an off-the-cuff remark about a difficult client. But beware. To help ensure that employees don't gossip, watch what you say. When an employee makes a comment that can be construed as gossip, explain how the comment could be shared in a non-gossipy way or why it wasn't appropriate. When an employee occasionally makes comments that cross into gossip, behavior modeling and employ- ee coaching generally work. Call yourself out as well when you slip into behaviors along the gossip spectrum. Deal Directly With Problem Employees If an employee is a hard-core gossiper, you will need to follow your progressive disciplinary procedure, a process that most likely starts with a verbal warning and ends with termination. Kellie Olah is a human resources consultant at Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. Meet individually with the perpe- trator in a confidential location and discuss the impact his gossiping is having on other individuals and the practice. Review with each perpe- trator the disciplinary procedures that will be followed and then stick to them, even if an employee who resists improving his behavior has to be fired. Make sure to first meet individ- ually with a gossiper rather than go immediately into a team meeting or send an email blast. Here's why: You might remember being a child in a classroom where the teacher vented about the high absentee- ism rate — ranting, of course, to the students who did show up in class. Sending a group email or holding a team meeting without individual counseling and disci- pline is the grown-up version of the teacher chastising good-atten- dance students for absenteeism. When you do meet with the entire team, discuss the topic of gossip on a broad level. Invite the team to brainstorm solutions to help ensure that workplace culture is as positive and gossip-free as possible. This can include reward- ing employees when they share positive news with one another, perhaps giving kudos to a fellow employee who received an im- portant certification or handled a difficult customer especially well. (Make sure that kudos aren't a disguise for gossiping about the challenging customer.) Finally, you need to protect employees who share with manag- ers any instances of gossip. Ironi- cally, you also need to ensure that gossip reporting doesn't become an insidious form of gossip. Remain firm and consistent in your efforts to root out gossip. The process can be challeng- ing, especially if gossip behaviors have been entrenched in the work- place culture, but the rewards are significant and worthwhile. Leadership person so she that can become the in-clinic trainer? Would it be feasi- ble to dedicate space for behavior and other training sessions? After training and certification of the person, the veterinarian can refer the patient in need of training to the in-clinic trainer. This person has her own appointment column, and clients are scheduled to come receive the additional service. Not feasible to train and devote clinic space? What about setting up teleconsulting with a trainer or behaviorist? With the proper equip- ment, the patient can be assessed via video feed from the practice or from the patient's home to the partner trainer or behaviorist. The village may be the exam room next door or the technology that brings together the pet and the partner. Perhaps having a dedicated area to connect to partners via vid- eo conferencing is a reasonable way to expand the village. Now, this is not to take away from the veterinar- ian-client-patient relationship, but it is a way to increase compliance by connecting the primary care vet- erinarian, client and specialist and creating a relationship whereby on- going care is handled through video conferencing from the primary care practice or the patient's home. Fido is having a medical condition requiring the services of a specialist. After initial exams, a telemedicine protocol is established and all three caregivers — the specialist, referring veterinarian and client — can view the patient at the same time. Treat- ment plans can be discussed and implemented in real time, rather than losing time by emailing reports and traveling back and forth. Finally, consider wearable tech- nology as a village partner. Remote monitoring and video-enabled engagement will enable veterinar- ians to assess critical health issues and communicate faster and easier with clients. Not all villagers need to be humans; there may be merit to adding technology to enhance the level of care you provide patients. Louise S. Dunn is a speaker, writer and founder of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting. She is Fear Free certified. A New Village Structure On the human side of health care, dream teams of nutritionists, occu- pational therapists, social workers and wearable technology are used to improve patient engagement, leverage team members to do what they do best, and foster more seam- less interactions with professionals and specialists. Is it possible for vet- erinary care to do the same thing? Our human counterparts are seeing value in changing their busi- ness models. The Health Research Institute's "ROI for Primary Care: Building the Dream Team" report stated: "Today's primary care doctors are not being deployed ef - fectively. HRI's 2015 clinician survey found that they spend more than one-third of their time on adminis- trative work, discussing behavioral health issues with patients and addressing patients' social barriers." Sound familiar? How many of today's veterinarians are spending time on administrative work to keep the business successful, troubleshooting behavioral issues of the four-legged patient, and ad- dressing clients' financial and social barriers? The same report noted that 75 percent of consumers were comfortable seeing a nurse practi- tioner, physician assistant or phar- macist instead of the physician for certain services. If our clients were comfortable with this structure for their own health care, would they be comfortable with it for their pet's health care? Now is the time to look at your practice village and restruc- ture it to best serve the needs of the patients, the clients and the business. A team is needed to share in the care of pets. This team, or village, may contain any number of professionals and use technology to provide exceptional patient care, meet client demands and improve the team's efficiency. (Continued from Page 52) When you do meet with the entire team, discuss the topic of gossip on a broad level. Invite the team to brainstorm solutions to help ensure that workplace culture is as positive and gossip-free as possible.

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