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Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew!

Posted By Christine Shupe, Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Better to address guidelines one population at a time



When creating preventive healthcare protocols, the prudent advice from experts is, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew!”


Written preventive protocols should be crafted for the different pet populations treated in the practice. There are protocols for felines and canines, as well as the young, middle- aged and seniors. That’s a lot of protocols! Drafting and creating these guidelines can easily become time consuming, unwieldy and complicated by the size of the practice and the number of staff contributing to the process.


VHMA’s Susan Savage, CVT, CVPM. MBA, PHR, who facilitates a group of practice managers who are using the VHMA's Preventive Pet Healthcare: Your Guide to becoming a PRACTICE CHAMPION tool to develop guidelines for their practices, strongly encourages managers to consider how the process will play out when numerous guidelines must be coordinated among a number of staff members.


Susan’s suggestion? Start small! She does acknowledge that when staff is excited about implementing a program or procedure, the energy generated by their enthusiasm can be difficult to reign in. After all, who wants to listen to the skeptic in the room? However, group feedback reveals that practices that take on too much at one time are likely to accomplish less.


 Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to push back against staff’s desire to do it all. In the long run, you will avoid the frustration that can ensue when staff finds that the process becomes unwieldy and complicated by many moving parts. Start small, enjoy the success and apply what works and avoid what doesn’t work when crafting future guidelines.


Making Choices


When selecting the guidelines to tackle, stick to the road well-traveled. If there are protocols—or something vaguely related to protocols---available in the practice, use those as the starting point. AAHA/AVMA Guidelines should be considered in conjunction with the practice protocols during the review process. For the group’s first foray, consider selecting a population for which generating protocols are straightforward to increase the likelihood of success.


Suggestion: Susan recommends starting with middle-aged canine guidelines as the protocols may be less extensive than those for puppies and seniors.


Coordinating Participation


Not surprisingly, coordinating the protocol process of a small practice is less cumbersome than coordinating the efforts of a large practice simply because there are fewer players involved. Even in a small practice, given workloads and schedules it may be difficult to arrange a time for the entire staff to sit together and brainstorm.


Based on the group’s experiences, members suggest starting the guideline review with the veterinarians. Based on their feedback continue revising and circulating to other select groups. Continue the review as the guidelines evolve.


Regular updates are key. Not only do they communicate to staff that they are an essential part of the process, it ensures that the entire staff is aware of tweaks and revisions and creates a sense of ownership and commitment.


The piece-by-piece strategy to create guidelines can encourage participants to be more thoughtful in their review and evaluation of the materials.


Recommendation: Identify a system for communicating information about the developing guidelines. Whether it is through email, regular meetings or another means, having a predetermined system in place will ensure that contact with participants is ongoing.


Adhering to the Guidelines


Creating the guidelines is not an end in itself. The guidelines should be committed to paper and become an integral part of office procedure. Creating a checklist that is posted throughout the practice can increase guideline compliance among staff.


Practice Tip: Creating guidelines is not a once and done exercise. Continue to refer to the guidelines with staff at meetings. Follow-up with questions to discern how effective the guidelines are. Invite staff to submit suggestions to improve the protocols.



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