Remember Charlie Brown’s friend Linus? He was famous for saying, “Happiness is a warm blanket.” But for those many pet parents, the source of true happiness is a short wait at their pet’s veterinary visit!
A recent VHMA Insider Insight’s survey polled respondents about how waiting is addressed in their practices. Two hundred and twenty managers, owners and hospital administrators responded and the majority—59%—reported that the practice does not track client wait times!
The remaining respondents (41%) do record wait times and commonly enter this information manually—noting the information on charts, clocking in admission forms, notating room cards and whiteboards or completing travel sheets. Several respondents reported using veterinary software, triage boards, Census Modules and room timers.
Veterinary practices do their best to comply with appointment schedules; however, emergencies and walk-ins can wreak havoc with even the most carefully planned schedules. Recording client wait times can help to pinpoint areas that need to be changed. For example, does an office pattern of long waits indicate the need for more staff or extended appointment? Additionally, are long waits negatively impacting client satisfaction and costing the practice clients? These questions may not be readily answered unless wait time data is available.
How long is too long?
According to a national study of the veterinary industry, patients wait an average of 17 minute before seeing a veterinarian. VHMA respondents were asked how long their clients will wait to wait before their patience is tested. It is apparent that clients served by VHMA survey respondents have a low wait time threshold! Seventy percent reported that after less than 15 minutes of waiting, clients become irritated.
Creating a Stress-free Environment
Almost all practices surveyed have introduced strategies to reduce waiting room stress. Ninety percent believe honesty is the best policy. These respondents strive to inform and update clients about delays that impact scheduled appointments.
VHMA industry insiders also described other tactics they have implemented to reduce stress. Eighty-five percent have created waiting areas that are comfortable and relaxing. Seventy-eight percent use technical interactions to keep clients focused on milestones during the visit. Staff may weigh the pet, complete forms with clients or gather vital measures to keep the appointment moving.
In addition, practices offer food and beverages (66%), provide free Wi-Fi (58%), make games available (55%) and install television (49%).
Seventy-four percent noted that if a strong bond between the client and veterinarian exists, clients are more likely to abide long wait times.
Waiting may be hard, but with proactive measures in place practices can reduce stress levels among clients and patients.
Use our The Wait List Tool to determine how your practice is doing.