The future is here. This is a phrase we so often hear as today’s technology continues to impact the world around us. While this notion is true for many workplaces, it’s not always the case—especially for the veterinary industry.
While the world of animal health has made significant medical advancements, the industry still lags in terms of automation to help streamline clinic operations. This is one of the reasons why so many clinics are falling short in two critical components of our business: connection with patients and clients, and care for veterinary teams and staff. In a time when the majority of Canadians (58 per cent1) are pet owners and the number of working veterinarians is dropping, it is clear we need to address these shortcomings—and soon.
So, what’s the good news? Fortunately, the goal of achieving better care is, quite literally, at our fingertips. We just need to shift our mindsets to get there.
By utilizing technology and putting it to work for us, we’re able to outsource administrative duties to leave more time for what matters: meaningful interactions with pets, clients, and each other. This allows us to build a culture of care to focus on what we do best—caring for pets with compassion.
I’ve witnessed, first-hand, how technology can be used to diminish burnout, boost satisfaction, and best of all, put us in the right frame of mind to enjoy our work.
1) Digitize online appointments
A 2021 Google study found the majority of clients expect to book online; however, less than half of veterinary practices provide this option. By offering online bookings, a practice is available to take appointments at all hours of the day and direct resources where they’re most needed: providing quality care.
2) Triage with virtual 24-7 pet care
Veterinary care does not have to be an exclusively in-person profession. Clinics can take advantage of veterinary technicians looking for virtual opportunities and build a digital care team that is available 24 hours a day. Not only is this another valued offering to clients that can provide peace of mind and reduce wait times, virtual care and triage also offsets and manages the flow of in-clinic appointments.
3) Optimize for efficiency
By appropriately assigning various tasks, we can create a more streamlined and satisfying veterinary care experience. In this way, we are able to fully appreciate and value the expertise of each member of the care team and relay this back to our clients. From intense surgeries, to nail trims, to paperwork, to client communication, the right mix of veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians (RVTs), and member experience co-ordinators is pivotal to offering better pet care while balancing internal satisfaction.
4) Create dedicated team spaces
A lack of dedicated care team areas can mean a veterinarian has to use a client-facing washroom after a tough surgery, an RVT has to eat lunch in the car due to lack of space, or a practice owner has to complete paperwork in the waiting room. This not only creates unprofessional environments for clients, but diminishes a team’s need to decompress and appropriately prepare for patients and pet owners. Establishing defined spaces may be more important than you may think—in one study, 80 per cent of respondents said a company’s mental health culture and benefits shaped their employment decisions.2
5) Promoting a culture of care and benefits
With burnout and compassion fatigue all too commonplace, mental health benefits are not just “nice to have;” they’re essential. While personal touches, like regular one-on-ones with team members, cannot be replaced, technology can play an important role in lessening the emotional and mental burden that comes with pet care.
By automating, streamlining, and outsourcing menial and repetitive tasks, staff have more time to connect with patients and deliver quality care. When part of a comprehensive offering of benefits, things like recognition programs, continuing education (CE), parental leave, paid time off (PTO), and mentorship opportunities can ensure team members truly feel valued and perform at their best.
A bright step forward
If more of us can implement these changes, we can move from reimagining our profession to reinventing it, better managing the issues we face, and building a brighter future for our industry, patients, clients, and, of course, each other.
Cassandra Vlahaki, BSc., DVM, is chief veterinarian and co-founder of Juno Veterinary Clinic in Toronto. She lives in Toronto with her family, including her two-year-old Golden Retriever, Winnifred.
1 Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI). “Latest Canadian pet population figures released.” CAFI press release, 22 Sept 2022. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/09/22/2521210/0/en/Latest-Canadian-Pet-Population-Figures-Released.html (accessed 24 Apr 2023)
2 American Psychological Association (APA). “Workers appreciate and seek mental health support in the workplace.” https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/2022-mental-health-support (accessed 24 Apr 2023)