Ask Amy: Inefficiency is driving me nuts

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Mar 01, 2007
By dvm360.com staff

Every day at our practice is a scheduling nightmare, and our doctor just does not see the problem. Our practice is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. We accept drop-offs from 7 to 8 a.m., but our doctor refuses to schedule a team member that early. He says he'll help clients, but when my manager and I arrive at 7:30 a.m., clients are waiting and upset.

My doctor also complains if he has to pay us overtime, but if someone comes to the door or calls at 6:55 p.m., he lets them in. I understand he wants to generate revenue and help the pet, but whether it's an ear infection, an abscess, dental care, or a hot spot, he wants to treat the pet immediately. How can we run an efficient, regularly scheduled hospital?
—Confused



Dear Confused,
I can see how you might be puzzled and perturbed about the schedule. As a general rule, you need your schedules to align to manage client traffic and leverage a team effectively. In other words, you need your appointment, surgery, team, and doctor schedules to support one another. The goal is to have the right people in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. When I hear descriptions such as yours about lengthy check-in times and overtime, it's clear there's a serious schedule misalignment.

There is good news. Your boss sounds committed to client service and cost control. Here's what you can do: Figure out the wait time for clients in the mornings and look at what you can do to streamline the check-in process. Then talk to your boss about the cost and service issues you've identified. For example, could you schedule more team members when it's busy and fewer when it's quiet?

Many clinics have improved efficiency by preparing paperwork, planning a discharge appointment, and collecting all check-in materials before clients arrive. Depending on the size of the practice, you may need to schedule a team member who can focus on clients in the morning while someone else opens the practice.

Remember, changing schedules can take some time, and change can be uncomfortable. You need to be the voice that reminds others about the importance of handling clients promptly and offering pets the most efficient care. Go get 'em!
—Amy

Do you have a practice problem that’s hurting your heart? Send your questions to
or write to Ask Amy, Firstline magazine, 8033 Flint, Lenexa, KS 66214.