It isn't uncommon to find practices that, either formally or informally, offer technician appointments; i.e. patient visits in which certain services are provided to the pet and pet owner by a credentialed veterinary technician instead of by a veterinarian. The types of services provided vary but include blood draws for multiple kinds of tests (pre-anesthetic, medication levels, etc), surgery admits, microchips, vaccinations, discharge instructions, nail trims and anal gland expressions, SQ fluid administration, etc.
There are clear benefits to formalizing this option in many practices. Some of them include:
1. Increased productivity—it doesn't make sense to use doctor time for things that technicians are legally allowed to do and can do well (maybe even better than doctors!) Improved staff utilization is a more critical element of successful practices now than ever before. Practices that want to become more profitable can no longer just count on fee increases to achieve this goal. Improved profitability must come from improved business practices. Practices who delegate duties to appropriate staff members through technician appointments or as part of veterinarian appointments are able to see more clients and generate more gross revenue and profits. This increased profitability is essential to providing good quality medicine and surgery and to continual investment in team members in the form of increased salaries and benefits and increased continuing education.
2. Happier employees—Team members (technicians or other) who are allowed to use their current skills as well as learn and grow at work are generally happier in their jobs and more likely to stay with the practice than those who are only allowed to do less interesting tasks. A practice that elects to use technician appointments is also clearly demonstrating to its technicians that they have confidence in them and value their contributions.
3. Happier clients—Clients are busier than ever and they want their needs taken care of now. If they are having to wait several days to get an appointment with a veterinarian for something a technician can do, they aren't going to be as happy with the service aspect of the practice as they could be if seen earlier by making an appointment with a technician. The same goes for walk-ins—if the client has to wait an hour for a doctor when a technician could have seem them immediately, again, they aren't going to have the same sense of client satisfaction as if they'd been seen immediately. Clients are more concerned than ever about money and if they can get their needs met at a lower cost (for example, without being charged an exam fee or by being charged a lower fee), they will appreciate the opportunity. No one is suggesting that clients shouldn't be charged a fair price for the service but instead that fees should be appropriate to the service. And not all services need doctors to do them.
4. Increased bonding of clients to practices—One of the reasons that clients stay with a particular veterinary practice is that they have a relationship with it; this really means that they have a relationship with the people in the practice. If the client only has a relationship with one person in the practice, for example, with the veterinarian, then if that doctor leaves, the ties with the client have been weakened. If the client has a relationship with multiple people in the practice (including one or more technicians), then the bond is stronger. Technicians and other staff people are often very effective as well in reiterating the doctor's recommendations and clients are sometimes more comfortable asking clarification questions to a non-doctor, preferably, someone they have an ongoing relationship with.
5. Increased revenue—if the clients were going to come in anyways for the service, whether or not it was done by a technician or a veterinarian, having technician appointments might not increase the revenue of the practice. However, tech appointments can increase revenue under some circumstances. If the practice is very busy and doctors are doing things that techs could be doing, then having the technicians take over the things they can do can definitely increase revenue because more cases are seen during a given time. And if clients are more likely to come in for nail trims or anal gland expression because they know they can make an appointment or will be seen quickly, more revenue may be generated due to the increase in the number of these services performed and because the techs will have a chance to look at the pet and see if there is anything a doctor should also take a look at.