5 ways to work smarter

5 ways to work smarter

Feeling disorganized? Take charge of the problems that swamp your practice and make it a brighter day for your whole team with these efficiency tips for small and large practices.
Jul 01, 2008

Chaos. That's your first thought as you glance around your practice. Lisa's trying to explain Max's home dental care while Max enthusiastically greets his distracted owner. Carrie can't find the special diet Rex needs, and Mrs. Smith is calling to check up on Butterball but no one can find the patient record. And you can't wait until the clocks strikes 6 p.m. so you can finally sit down already.

There's an easier way to work, whether you're a staff of one or 100. Let's look at five of your top efficiency issues and examine some tools and advice for practices of all sizes.

1. Managing inventory

CHALLENGE: Recording, tracking, and ordering prescription medication and supplies

Figure 1
SOLUTION: Use your inventory tracking program in your practice management software, and visually review your stored supplies to track the inventory in front of you, says Pam Stevenson, CVPM, a consultant with Veterinary Results Management in Durham, N.C. Also take advantage of the inventory management services your distributor offers, she says.

Start by creating a protocol for when to place product orders. For profitability, your inventory should turn five to seven times a year. A strong relationship with a distributor and some savvy negotiating with your representative will earn you the best service and pricing. There's little cost savings in chasing the best prices of the week.

And dedicating space to a central storage area is worthwhile, Stevenson says. When you store supplies in a single location, you're less likely to order the wrong amount, and it's easier to track what you've got. An organized central storage area can save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. If you don't have a central space to devote to supplies, group the full supply of an item in one place.

If you're a small practice and you don't use software, consider this tip: Find a centralized location where you can hang a list that tracks the medication and supplies the practice needs to reorder. When you take the last of an item, add it to the list. This tells your inventory manager what she needs to reorder.

And make sure your inventory manager understands how you use all medication and supplies, says Caitlin Rivers, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member. Rivers, a veterinary assistant and inventory and special projects coordinator at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa., says it also helps if your inventory manager understands the practices' trends for using specific products.

In larger practices, it's a good idea to assign one team member to order and track the practice's use of each category of supplies, such as medication or housekeeping products, says Nancy Potter, a Firstline board member and the practice manager at Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan. This helps distribute the workload of an otherwise overwhelming task in a large practice.

A bonus: When you devote a team member to one category of supplies, he or she learns more about those products. For example, the team member responsible for pet food can track when new prescription diets are available and any promotions the distributor offers.