How to own the examination room (Proceedings)


How to own the examination room (Proceedings)

Apr 01, 2010

Professional communications (marketing) in the examination room has become an important part of successful veterinary practices. Marketing as discussed here is "the communication of professional services and goods". More and more practices are now discovering professional marketing as another practice management tool to be used along with good personnel management and sound accounting practices. Face to face communication skills must be practiced regularly to be effective. We are now entering into a technology period where text messaging is becoming the standard communication tool among young people. We must continue to focus on the importance of face to face communication skills.

Professional marketing has been practiced for years, just as corporate retail marketing, but designated by a different name. Most professionals have referred to marketing techniques as public relations activities. The veterinarian has called marketing "client relations."

The profession needs to continue to be acutely aware of professional ethics and maintain the highest degree of professionalism. Professional marketing is not opposed to that position and philosophy when properly applied. The first step must be to accept marketing as a useful management tool. The next step is to gain understanding in techniques available and then apply those techniques to the practice and the profession.

The veterinary technician and receptionist play a vital role in the overall marketing of professional services and products. In most practices the technician or receptionist probably spends more time with the client than does the veterinarian. The client must gain confidence in the practice before he or she will allow a full range of services to be performed on their animal or return to the practice at a later date for additional or follow-up services. Confidence is gained by the client first through the receptionist, further reinforced by the technician and then finalized by the veterinarian. When support staff are fully used in the marketing plan, the availability and quality of service both increase while net income increases.

Marketing includes client relations, appearance of the hospital, polite support staff, offering full service care, sending client reminders, being neat and clean, sending newsletters, developing a practice web site, providing nutritional and dietary management, providing emergency service, offering pet supplies, giving career talks at the high school, providing handout material to clients, offering annual health assessments, sending sympathy cards, listening to client's needs and so forth. Most marketing techniques start in the reception and examination rooms and require a team effort of veterinarian and staff. One of the most effective methods of service marketing is through the use of the routine complete physical examination.

The physical examination can be a very helpful marketing tool to the full service practice. The use of a complete physical examination can allow many opportunities to explain and promote professional services. The yearly health assessment allows the veterinarian and technician to review the history, previous problems, current problems and offer preventative recommendations.

Some practices have been reluctant to recommend annual examinations because physicians are now recommending fewer complete evaluations for humans. However, the dog and cat age at a rate which is 7 to 9 times more rapidly than that of people. Common sense would indicate a complete evaluation should be done twice a year for maximum health care prevention.

The biannual health assessment should be recommended by all veterinarians and staff. A specific protocol should be developed to allow continuity. These examinations should be scheduled, when possible, during the slow months of the year (September-March), the slower times of the week (Tuesday-Thursday) and slower periods of the day (2:00 pm-4:00 pm).