Planning ahead

Welcome to Onswitch’s latest blog, this time looking at how practices can use the learnings forced upon us out of necessity to improve ways of working when everything is back to normal.

During this lockdown period, we’ll be sharing regular updates that we hope will help your business stay on track during these difficult times. You can also get video updates on our Facebook page, where the team are posting short clips of practical tips, useful information and community welfare advice as and when we think of anything that might help.

Please do let us know if there are subjects you’d like to know more about, and we’ll do our best to oblige – we’re all in this together!


Inevitably recent events have required us all to adapt to new ways of doing things, often with a reduced headcount and with colleagues working remotely.  And whilst it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed by panic and confusion, I’d urge everyone to take a moment to step back and observe the positive differences to be found in this new approach, assessing which behaviours and processes we might even want to keep when this is all over. After all, as John F. Kennedy observed, “the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity”.

When you can find some quiet time, put half an hour aside to think about what your team is doing now that’s working well, as well as what is definitely not. Consider whether the things that aren’t working are simply down to a lack of resources – time, skills, headcount etc. Are there services and equipment that you can obtain in the future to make the processes you’re running now go more smoothly? Examples might include changing or upgrading your phone service or practice management system, or training the vet team on effective telephone call handling.

Necessity is the mother of invention

You probably haven’t given much thought to the fact that lots of what you’re having to do now will be worth keeping when the practice returns to ‘normal’. (Although what we think of as ‘normal’ will have shifted forever as a result of living through the pandemic.)

A good example is routine and ongoing medication supply. Many practices are now posting out parasiticides and long-term drugs such as NSAIDs. Pushing these out at regular and known intervals rather than waiting for the patient to pull them sporadically allows the practice to be in control, managing stock holding and ensuring income. I wouldn’t mind betting that most practices will want to take a good look at their drug management protocols and implement better ways of getting meds out to patients without relying on them having to visit the practice in future.

We’re also hearing of practices asking clients to post photos of their pets onto social media, keeping the practice–client bond strong by showing the team are genuinely interested in the animals they care for, and just as much in good health as bad. One practice we know of has gone further, asking clients with new pets that aren’t able to come into the practice at the moment to send in photos. These images are them attached to the pet’s notes so that when they do come in, the team have already ‘met’ them, virtually.

Creating a weekly ‘to do’ list will also help add structure in these uncertain and open-ended times. Some tasks will need doing daily, some on specific days of the week. Write up a flipchart or create a whiteboard matrix to capture what needs doing, when and who by so that things don’t get missed.

Optimising video consults

Several practices in the Onswitch family have shared their practical tips for delivering remote video consults efficiently and effectively, so if you’re not already doing these, you might want to take note:

  • Add short videos to your website and social media showing owners how to examine their pet at home. This could include specific actions like demonstrating how to check the gums, and / or could also include a short guide to key terminology and parts of the body that might be unfamiliar to the average owner
  • Keep a soft toy of a dog and cat to hand during consults, so you can point to the relevant place on the animal that you want to owner to take a picture of or get up on screen

Finally, we’d like to leave you with a request to start planning ahead. None of us know how long this current state of affairs is going to last, but we’re looking at a couple more months at least before we’re able to welcome clients back into our buildings. It will happen, and when it does, you can bet that clients will be straight on the phone to rearrange the appointments and reviews that they have missed. It will be imperative that your team prioritise these calls, scheduling in the most urgent and longest-delayed first. In order to do this, they will need details of when appointments were due, so build a database now to show who has been delayed from when. Your practice management software may do this easily for you, but if not, create an excel spreadsheet (or a good old fashioned flipchart) listing week by week who has been postponed and what for. The vet team can then review this information prior to returning to normal opening, so that colleagues at the reception desk can allocate appointments in priority order.

Well done to all of you as you navigate these choppy waters. We’re seeing more and more how resilient and pragmatic our profession is, and how decisive you can all be when needed!

Let’s all resolve to hold onto this newly acquired, but always crucial, skill!


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