Beyond numbers: Healthy veterinary futures part II
Posted on 09/14/2022 at 11:26 AM by Dr. Link Welborn and Matt Salois
In Part I of our series, we discussed the systemic forces shaping the workforce, workflow and well-being challenges prevalent in the veterinary industry. Here, we discuss practical solutions for creating long-term practice health, as well as how VMG membership supports those solutions.
Because the three realities of workforce, workflow and well-being confronting veterinary medicine are related, any impactful solution will address all areas in a connected way. The key is to focus on supporting, improving and optimizing your existing resources and teams.
Think of it as a domino effect. When you address inefficiency in one area of your practice, other areas are better positioned to become more efficient as well. Rooting out the inefficiencies built into a practice’s infrastructure frees up workflow – and by extension workforce – to build toward a healthier future. Any number of new tools can support this approach, including advanced planning software, cloud-based technologies and automation for repetitive tasks. Relieving workload burdens also creates a foundation upon which to build a healthier, more people-centric culture at your practice.
Three big steps toward practice health
- Focus on efficiency & productivity
Take a hard look at routine procedures at your practice, like dispensing medications or checking in clients. Could you automate administrative processes like vendor management purchasing platforms and managing electronic medical records? Also, consider leveraging telehealth, where appropriate and with valid VCPR, and other communication tools to ease foot traffic into your practice and improve client relationships. The key is to support smarter, more efficient workflows, whether that’s through automating, leveraging technology or simply revamping processes.
- Develop & mentor existing talent
Before hiring new people, consider providing professional development and mentorship for the staff you already have. Are they currently making the most of their skills and abilities? By implementing new tools and techniques, you empower your staff to perform the full range of work they're trained and qualified to do. For example, why should a veterinary technician be answering phones when they could be assisting with vaccinations or prepping a surgery? Alleviate the burden on your current staff and position them to tap into their core skills and passions.
- Support your team through group well-being
Reducing the stress level in your practice results in team members having more time and energy to evolve – and the culture that emerges is the ultimate recruitment and retention tool. Culture is also mission critical when it comes to preventing burnout at your practice. Focus on creating an inclusive culture that prioritizes well-being. Everyone working at the practice can and should develop their leadership abilities, but that can only happen if you create a psychologically safe space – and additional bandwidth – so people can work and thrive together.
Economic well-being is veterinary well-being
Now that you know what you need to do, how do you get it done? It’s hard to make these changes if your practice’s business – and people – are suffering. The extent to which practice owners can take action and mitigate these issues depends on the overall financial and cultural health of the organization. Plus, given the potentially long hours and staff shortages we discussed in Part I, many owners also lack the capacity or bandwidth to focus inward.
In short, who has the time or energy to work on the business when working in the business can be overwhelming?
Hit “refresh” with intellectual capital
VMG is a professional membership organization that provides collaborative study groups for veterinary hospital owners, as well as a host of resources, programs and tools to support the business side of practice ownership, including a purchasing program.
One of the biggest time savers – and most invaluable resources – for practice owners facing today’s pain points in veterinary medicine is access to intellectual capital and a shared learning journey. Our veterinary study groups create a community of like-minded veterinarians who have common goals but bring different experiences and viewpoints to the table. They meet to share those perspectives as they discuss their challenges, successes and solutions. Practice owners also tap into a year-round culture of collaboration and a place where they can turn as we all rebuild our support system post pandemic. Meeting in a small study group setting provides a safe and supportive environment for practice owners to take deep dives into their financials and other business issues. In fact, the camaraderie and knowledge sharing provided by our study groups creates the greatest economic benefit to our members. After all, as a practice owner, it’s hard to put a price on the chance to step out of “feeling lonely at the top” and into a supportive community of other practice owners.
Since the pandemic, we’ve seen our members accelerate the urgency of conversations around well-being, workforce shortages, and productivity and efficiency. Issues like burnout are no longer just a talking point or hypothetical as veterinarians stand at the precipice of these issues daily, ready to find solutions to these present challenges—and the ones they foresee in the future. VMG members continually strengthen their commitment to measurable business and clinical improvement through their study group experience.
Get help with innovation fatigue
As practice owners pour through productivity and efficiency solutions, we also know that decision and innovation fatigue begin to creep in. With so many options, how to choose? And how can a practice owner know what will work for their specific practice?
Our members are never alone when they make a decision. First, they can get the candid and expert opinions of peers who have already used certain products and services through our Strategic Opportunity Committee (SOC). An representative from each membership – approximately 60 of the best veterinarians in the profession – review products and services and share their input with other members.
Combat inflation with member savings
As prices continue to increase at an unprecedented rate, our members also enjoy both upfront discounts and backend rebates that translate to significant savings as they purchase necessary supplies and equipment. Working with close to 60 preferred partners, we negotiate the best possible rates and help deliver measurable financial benefits through our combined purchasing power for VMG members through our leading purchasing program. Our partners also lend their support to our study group meetings.
Support professional development through educational opportunities
In addition to our study groups, VMG members enjoy multiple educational opportunities to become more effective leaders. These opportunities are also available to their practice staff, so everyone has a chance to enhance their skills and meet their continuing education needs. VMG member practices take advantage of our wide selection of courses to pursue goals like adding new specialties, improving customer service, building stronger client communications, better managing of financials and marketing, and more.
Leverage actionable data to track and improve financials
Even practice owners who successfully understand and manage their financial performance have difficulty benchmarking their progress against other practices. VMG members use the same COA (Chart of Accounts) to submit their data to VSG DATALINKTM to create a global reporting network with continuity across categories—and a reliable basis for benchmarking. Our veterinary-specific CPAs also review submissions for accuracy, so members can have confidence in the numbers.
Take a step forward with VMG
Today’s challenges are anything but simple, and simply adding more staff or clients won’t create the long-term success you’re after. By investing in the people and processes you already have, you can make meaningful steps toward a more productive practice and a healthier culture that is positioned to thrive in a challenging and ever-changing landscape.
Interested in joining VMG? Contact us today to learn more about how our members are elevating the business of veterinary medicine, together.