Resolution time – Experts weigh in

Before the diet, workout and clean-the-garage New Year’s resolutions are firmly disregarded, violated or otherwise ignored, make one you will actually keep: Help out your practice.

In light of the gloomy economic outlook for this year, we asked several experts what one thing they would advise a practice owner or manager to resolve to do for 2009.
According to Peter Weinstein, VetPartners president elect and owner of Irvine, Calif.-based PAW Consulting, practices should do like Monty Python, and always look on the bright side of life.

“Maintain a positive outlook on your practice, your life and the world around you,” Weinstein advises.

“So much of how we act and perform is dependent upon how we feel. The word ‘recession’ has a very strong economic meaning but also creates an emotional reaction in the people who hear it. Although you may not be able to do anything about the economic part, the way you handle the emotional part will determine your day to day outlook on life

“If you are upset, your staff will feel it and they will reflect that back to the clients. Those practices that I have spoken with that have owners with positive outlooks seem to be doing much better than those who are bemoaning the world around them.  Leaders must maintain a positive outlook and encourage those around them to do so also.

“Clients also can feel a tense environment, as well as their pets. A more relaxed, positive workplace will help make a client feel more comfortable and relaxed and thus more likely to perform the services that a pet needs. So use positive thoughts and energy to get through the day even during difficult times and think of how great your practice will be when things finally turn around.”

Brakke Consulting’s Christine Merle DVM, CVPM, said that “long term focus, not short term solutions” should be the order of the day for practices in 2009.

“Fear and uncertainty lead to the desire for quick and easy solutions,” Merle said. “Make decisions based on long-term results: Will your decision enhance the long-term relationship with your clients and with their pets?”

Lowell Ackerman, DVM, DACVD, author of “Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Practice Management Consult,” advised practices to create specific protocols with help from the entire staff, and consistently implement these protocols.

“With the economy in turmoil, stick to basics. Wellness/preventative protocols are relatively inexpensive for owners, but they make a world of difference to revenue generation in a veterinary hospital, and are clearly in the best interests of pets and their owners. Owners are used to protocols – they know how many times a year they need to go to the dentist, what vaccinations their children need to attend public schools, how often mammograms should be done, and at what age colonoscopies are indicated. Yet, many veterinary practices are hesitant to establish wellness/preventative protocols and this is a disservice to clients and the lack of protocols constrains revenue generation.

“For example, veterinarians have a big opportunity in the prevention of feline heartworm, a condition with roughly the same incidence as feline leukemia virus infection, feline immunodeficiency virus infection, kidney disease and diabetes mellitus, and one that is completely preventable with products available through veterinarians, but for which most cats remain unprotected. The Heartworm Society recommends that all cats be on monthly preventative therapy starting at 8 weeks of age, and since probably less than 5% of cats are actually being protected, this represents a great opportunity for small animal veterinarians. Given the economic situation, let’s hope that veterinarians heed the call to action.”