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Business Continuity During COVID-19 – 3 Options for Keeping Your Veterinary Practice Afloat

Updated: 1 day ago

The recent coronavirus pandemic has affected businesses across the globe, and veterinary clinics are no exception. Because most consider veterinary services to be among those that are “essential,” many clinics have remained operational, albeit under some new and challenging restrictions.


Even if your practice has remained open, however, chances are you’ve still been impacted in a number of ways. If you’re searching for strategies to keep your business afloat while also keeping yourself and your team safe and healthy through this difficult time, here are a few options that may be available to you.


House Calls


If house calls were already on your list of client services, then this pandemic probably hasn’t changed much, other than an increase in the number of requests you’ve probably gotten. What has likely changed is the manner by which you’re delivering in-home care to your patients. For instance, many house-call vets have temporarily changed their policies to adapt to the new social distancing rules. Instead of seeing patients in a client’s home, many are now providing their care outside, either in their van (if they have one), or on the porch, in the yard, etc.


If you’ve never been a house call vet before, now may be a time to consider offering such a service to your clients, even if it’s just until the pandemic passes and things settle down. This can be tremendously helpful in keeping revenue steady, especially for clients who are uneasy leaving their homes or those who are considered high-risk and cannot venture out.


If you do decide to extend your care to clients’ homes, remember to continue to follow appropriate safety protocols, such as wearing disposable gloves and a cloth face covering. This will help protect yourself and your clients from the spread of the virus.


Curbside Care


Another creative way you can continue to serve your clients and patients while also protecting your bottom line is to offer curbside care outside of your clinic. This helps to limit human to human contact while still enabling pet owners to stay up to date on their companions’ necessary care. It also keeps those appointments on the books, ensuring business continuity.


The way it works is relatively simple and straightforward. Clients still transport their pets to the clinic location, however, they remain in their vehicles while their pet is seen inside. They simply call the clinic when they arrive and then a member of the team will bring the pet in and back out once the appointment is complete. If an exchange of information is needed, or the client has questions, that part can be handled over the phone while the pet is being seen.

For doctors who don’t have the capacity or desire to offer house calls, curbside care may be a great alternative.


Telemedicine


The third option for managing patient care while adhering to social distancing rules is to offer consultations remotely via telemedicine. With this option, you can connect with your clients electronically using a smartphone, tablet or computer. Some vets already offer this and may even have their own dedicated app through which doctor and client can see and speak to one another in real-time. Others simply take advantage of the many available virtual meeting tools and technologies, such as FaceTime, Facebook video calls or Zoom meetings.


Obviously, not every situation can be handled via teleconference, but many of the basics can. And not only do clients appreciate the safety and convenience of this option, but it will once again allow you to keep your schedule booked up as much as possible.


It’s important to note, however, that there are certain guidelines that should be followed where telemedicine is concerned. For instance, you should only offer this service to clients and patients with whom you already have an existing relationship. (We’ll be going into this in greater detail in a future post, so be sure to stay tuned.) Provided you do your due diligence to ensure compliance, telemedicine may be a viable option for your practice.


Staying afloat during turbulent times like this can be difficult. By thinking a little outside the box, being flexible and having a backup plan, you can put your practice in the best possible position to weather this and future storms without taking a major financial hit.


Our Advice on Business Continuity During COVID-19 in 2024


What are the benefits of offering house calls during the pandemic?

Offering house calls during the pandemic presents several benefits for veterinary practices. Firstly, it allows for the continuation of services while adhering to social distancing guidelines, ensuring the safety of both clients and staff. Secondly, it caters to clients who may be uncomfortable leaving their homes or are at high risk, thereby maintaining revenue streams. Thirdly, it fosters client loyalty by demonstrating flexibility and concern for their well-being. Lastly, it provides an opportunity to expand service offerings and reach a broader client base. Overall, house calls offer a practical solution to maintain business continuity and adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic.


What are the challenges or limitations of conducting physical examinations or providing certain treatments through telemedicine?

Conducting physical examinations or providing certain treatments through telemedicine poses several challenges and limitations for veterinary practices. Firstly, it may be difficult to accurately assess a pet's condition without physically examining them, potentially leading to misdiagnosis or overlooking crucial symptoms. Secondly, certain treatments, such as administering vaccines or performing surgeries, require hands-on procedures that cannot be carried out remotely. Additionally, technological limitations or connectivity issues may hinder effective communication between the veterinarian and client, impacting the quality of care provided. Despite these challenges, telemedicine can still be a valuable tool for consultations and non-urgent healthcare needs.


What are the potential costs or investments required for setting up telemedicine infrastructure or equipping staff for house call services?

Setting up telemedicine infrastructure or equipping staff for house call services may require various investments for veterinary practices. Telemedicine implementation involves acquiring suitable technology, such as video conferencing tools or dedicated apps, which may entail initial costs. Additionally, staff training on telemedicine protocols and software usage may be necessary. For house call services, investments may include vehicles or equipment for mobile veterinary care, along with additional protective gear and supplies. While these investments can vary depending on practice needs and scale, they are crucial for adapting to changing client preferences and maintaining business continuity during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic.


How do I set pricing for house calls and telemedicine?

Pricing for house calls and telemedicine in veterinary practice can be determined based on various factors. For house calls, consider the distance traveled, time spent, and additional expenses like transportation and equipment. Telemedicine pricing may involve setting fees per consultation or implementing subscription models for ongoing virtual care. It's essential to conduct market research to understand competitors' pricing and ensure your rates are competitive yet reflective of the value provided. Additionally, consider the level of service and expertise offered to establish fair pricing that aligns with your practice's goals and financial sustainability.


What are the potential downsides of these models?

While house calls, curbside care, and telemedicine offer solutions during COVID-19, they come with challenges. House calls may strain resources due to travel time and equipment costs. Curbside care could lead to client dissatisfaction if communication isn't seamless. Telemedicine faces limitations in physical examination accuracy and inability to handle emergencies. Additionally, setting up telemedicine infrastructure incurs initial investment. Pricing must balance profitability with affordability, ensuring accessibility for clients. Despite drawbacks, these models adapt veterinary practice to unprecedented circumstances, emphasizing flexibility and innovation for sustained operation.


For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.

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