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Managing Change in Your Veterinary Practice

Updated: May 10

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past several months, it’s that change is inevitable. And while much of the time, change ultimately nets a positive result, deviating from what’s normal can be an uncomfortable experience. For some, the idea of change is downright frightening. In reality, if you want to achieve growth and remain competitive in the future, you must be willing to do things differently from time to time.

Benefits of Change

One of the first steps in overcoming resistance to change is to, well, change the narrative. Start by educating your team on the many ways change can be good, not only for the practice itself, but for each of them on an individual level as well. Here are a few key points to cover.

Change Helps Employees to Hone and Stretch Their Skills

Continuing education is an essential component of the veterinary industry. But beyond simply brushing up on what they already know, change can provide an opportunity for your employees to learn something entirely new. Embracing and mastering new techniques and different technologies can result in better patient care and higher staff satisfaction. Gaining new skills can also catapult your employees forward along their career paths.

Change Helps to Attract and Retain More Clients

Today’s consumers have come to expect top-notch service from the brands with which they do business. Veterinary services are not exempt from this expectation. In today’s high-tech, on-demand and hyper-personalized environment, your prospects and clients will be looking for all the bells and whistles. That means adopting the latest technologies and techniques. A willingness to stay on a step ahead of the curve will ultimately win you more business, which is good for everyone on the team.

Change Positions Your Practice Better in the Market

The more successful your veterinary practice is, the better off your employees will be in the long run. Being willing to embrace and adapt to change is a crucial part of growth and sustainable profitability. Change pushes all team members to be agile – a skill that is fundamental in just about every industry and career path.

How to Approach Change in Your Practice

Just because change is a positive and necessary process, that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy. Communication and cooperation are keys to success. This means being open and transparent. It means anticipating potential roadblocks and proactively addressing them. It means inviting feedback, encouraging discussion and offering continuous support along the way.

Here are a few specific change management tips to keep in mind:

  1. Whether you’re modifying current policies or workflows, or implementing an entirely new protocol, keep your eyes firmly on the end result. Communicate the “why” to your team and be clear about what the proposed change will ultimately accomplish. For instance, explain that while adopting new software may require additional training, the time-savings it will ultimately result in will more than make up for the extra upfront effort.

  2. Specify and clearly set the expectations you have for each team member. Demonstrate the “big picture” goals, but also tie in each person’s unique role in achieving those goals. By personalizing things, you’ll gain much more buy-in and achieve greater individual accountability.

  3. Solicit ideas and suggestions from your employees on how to best achieve a particular change initiative. When people are involved and engaged in the process of planning for and implementing change, they are far less likely to be resistant.

  4. Routinely share and celebrate victories, even if they seem insignificant. Maintaining a positive and encouraging attitude every step of the way is paramount.

Utilize Current Change as a Launch Pad

Like it or not, we’ve all experienced a significant amount of change over the past year or so. The pandemic has caused practices across the globe to have to quickly adapt and pivot, from offering curbside care and operating on modified schedules to adopting telemedicine technology. This forced change can be a great learning experience and an opportunity to push forward even further.

Remind your employees how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished collectively over the past several months. Don’t be afraid to pat yourselves on the back for a job well-done. When your team is able to step back and bear witness to how successful they’ve been at navigating this year’s uncertainty, they can’t help but feel encouraged and even excited about the many positive changes that lie ahead.

Our Advice on Managing Change in Your Veterinary Practice in 2024

How can veterinary practices effectively assess whether a proposed change aligns with their overall mission, values, and long-term goals?

Veterinary practices can effectively assess whether a proposed change aligns with their overall mission, values, and long-term goals by conducting a strategic review. This involves gathering input from key stakeholders within the practice to evaluate how the change impacts current operations and future aspirations. It's crucial to analyze the benefits and potential challenges of the change, ensuring it enhances client service and improves patient care—core elements of most veterinary missions. Additionally, setting measurable objectives helps determine if the change will drive progress towards the practice's defined goals.

How can practices balance the need for change and innovation with maintaining stability and continuity of care for their patients and clients?

Practices can balance the need for change and innovation with maintaining stability and continuity of care by implementing changes incrementally. Start by piloting new processes or technologies in small areas of the practice to gauge their impact and effectiveness. This approach minimizes disruption while allowing for adjustments based on real-world feedback. It's also crucial to maintain open communication with staff and clients about why changes are being made and how they will benefit patient care. Consistently evaluating these changes against practice goals ensures alignment and supports smooth transitions.

How can practices prioritize and stage multiple change initiatives to avoid overwhelming staff and ensure a smooth transition?

Practices can prioritize and stage multiple change initiatives by first determining the urgency and impact of each change. Assign a priority level based on how the change aligns with strategic goals and the immediate benefits it offers. Start with changes that provide significant improvements to patient care or operational efficiency. Stagger the implementation of different initiatives, allowing time for staff to adapt and for the practice to assess the effects of each change. Effective communication and training are essential to facilitate understanding and buy-in, ensuring a smoother transition and minimizing overwhelm.

What are some best practices for communicating changes to clients in a way that emphasizes the benefits and minimizes potential confusion or disruption?

When communicating changes to clients, it's best to emphasize the benefits clearly and concisely. Use multiple channels like emails, social media, and in-clinic displays to ensure the message reaches everyone. Be transparent about the reasons for the change and how it enhances their experience or the care their pets receive. Provide ample notice before implementing changes and offer to address any questions or concerns. Additionally, training staff to consistently communicate these changes ensures that client interactions reinforce the positive aspects, reducing potential confusion or disruption.

How can practices leverage technology and data analytics to help guide and measure the impact of change efforts?

Practices can leverage technology and data analytics by using practice management software to track key performance indicators (KPIs) before and after changes are implemented. This enables them to measure improvements in areas like appointment efficiency, patient outcomes, and client satisfaction. Analytics can also identify trends and pinpoint areas needing adjustment, ensuring changes produce desired results. Additionally, digital tools facilitate real-time feedback from clients and staff, providing insights that can refine ongoing change efforts and help prioritize future initiatives based on data-driven outcomes.

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

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