4 reasons patients should see techs instead of vets
Rarely does a single idea solve multiple issues, but technician appointments are multitaskers in the solutions department. You'll see here that implementing these appointments improves four potential problem areas in a practice and benefits every member of the veterinary team, as well as clients and patients.
Benefit 1: Healthier pets
Enhanced patient care is the reason Silver Creek Animal Clinic PC in Silverton, Ore., began technician appointments more than nine years ago, and the team has kept them going for the same reason. "These appointments give technicians an opportunity to advocate for pets that cannot advocate for themselves," says Kyle Palmer, CVT, practice manager at the clinic.Palmer says that quite often a simple nail trim, for example, becomes even more important when the technician notices an overdue vaccine or recognizes a health problem the owner didn't know about. "At our practice, it's the rule rather than the exception when a technician appointment uncovers other concerns: heart murmurs, skin problems, dental disease, you name it," he says. "Our technicians find these regularly when performing what would otherwise be a routine procedure."
Of course, to officially diagnose any condition, the technician summons a veterinarian, but no law prevents a technician from seeing it first, Palmer says. (Palmer suggests writing a protocol that clearly outlines how technicians should avoid a diagnostic conversation and when and how to transition a technician appointment into a doctor appointment. Click here for his protocols and more on technician appointments.) This early detection improves the chances of successfully treating the pet and preventing problems from becoming serious.
Benefit 2: Happier clients
Keeping pets healthy is priority No. 1, and in many cases, keeping their owners happy is priority No. 2. Julie Sontag, AAT, RVT, a veterinary technician at Clairmont Animal Hospital in Decatur, Ga., was frustrated by how the disorganized scheduling in her busy seven-doctor, seven-technician practice was upsetting clients. "We used to have 'take backs,' which ranged from nail trims to gland expressions, to weight checks," Sontag says. "Pets would be taken back to the treatment area whenever they arrived. Sometimes clients would have to wait forever in the lobby if we were busy with something else—which was always." The willy-nilly nature of these appointments resulted in poor client service, as well as a hectic day for technicians and assistants. "Clients would bring their pets in any time throughout the day—during appointments, during surgery, right as we were closing," Sontag said. To make matters worse, clients would have to sit in the waiting room while a veterinary assistant or technician rendered the services.
Sontag believed technician appointments would increase clients' satisfaction and offer the opportunity to talk with them more personally, so she proposed the idea to the practice owner. He agreed—with a bit of hesitation. (See "Learn More" on page 22 for info about going online to read about his reservations—and how to solve them.) One year later, the appointments are paying off. "Our clients love technician appointments," Sontag says. "They don't have to wait, and they like the face-to-face interaction. They feel like they're being taken care of."
Another client favorite: Technician visits can save money. Rather than paying for the doctor's time, clients pay a smaller office-visit fee at some practices or simply the cost of the services rendered at other practices. Either way, clients receive excellent care at a reduced cost.