From AAEP Convention 2021: Leveraging Your Veterinary Practice Team

Build systems to guide all veterinary practice team members to independent, efficient performances in order to help the practice reach its highest potential.

Dr. Amanda Donnelley described that productive, efficient teams result from clarity, accountability, empowerment and self-leadership. iStock/Steve Debenport

Editor’s note: CareCredit has partnered with EquiManagement to bring you summaries of equine business presentations from the 2021 AAEP Convention. We will run two original articles per month in January, February and March, then CareCredit will help us provide in-depth AAEP Convention business coverage in the Spring 2022 issue of EquiManagement magazine.

At the 2021 AAEP Convention held in Nashville, Tennessee, Amanda Donnelley DVM, MBA, gave a comprehensive presentation about team building during the morning Business of Practice session. She said that enhancing employee engagement and team productivity improves patient care, client care, the working environment, team well-being, practice efficiency and revenue production. A companion animal veterinarian for more than a decade before turning to consulting, she has a lot of experience in developing productive teams.

Donnelley said practice leadership needs to look forward rather than looking back. “Looking back can be a negative outlook” because “what you focus on is where you go,” she said. 

By thinking on positioning your team for success with systems, you will achieve greater success. Leveraging the talent of the team to its greatest extent requires having good leadership and a great culture, she said.

Donnelley described that productive, efficient teams result from clarity, accountability, empowerment and self-leadership. 

Signs of inefficiency include long wait times for clients, feeling “always behind,” not having time to do callbacks, breakdowns in communication, poor recordkeeping, equipment not returned to where it belongs, employees seeking frequent direction, unfinished or error-ridden work, and not enough team members to perform all the scheduled work. 

Inefficiencies in practice arise from lack of clarity on protocols, lack of standard operating procedures (with doctors preferring different ways to operate), workflow disorganization, undefined roles and responsibilities, lack of training, issues with scheduling, poor use of technology, lack of accountability, problem behaviors and lack of empowerment and autonomy, Donnelley reported.

When evaluating these issues, it is important to discover if you have a systems problem or a people problem, she said. 

Sometimes equine veterinary practices have both. 

If most team members are performing similarly, you likely have a systems problem, but if only one or two individuals are exhibiting inefficiencies in a certain area, you have a people problem. 

Using Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can help practices understand how their performances have changed over time and how that performance change is linked to efficiency, she continued.

To increase the efficiency of practices, the speaker said, systems and protocols should be in place for all the operations that the practice engages in from radiology to laboratory testing. 

By evaluating what procedures you currently have documented, you can find what is missing, what is outdated and what needs clarity, then you can correct the deficiencies. 

Standard operating procedures for communication, scheduling, pre-purchases, etc. can and should be put in place, Donnelley said. Leveraging technology can help tremendously with efficiency and will be important in attracting and retaining younger veterinarians who are digital natives.

Increasing team productivity will follow when practices define clear goals, allow associates to participate in leadership, regularly communicate goals to the entire team, and create a written action plan with measurable outcomes, according to  Donnelley. 

In addition, training and orientation must be thorough and effective. It is important not to overlook team development, she stressed. Employees must be able to continue to learn and grow in order to remain engaged. 

Leaders should ask “What’s going well?” as well as “What’s not going well?” In order to succeed, Donnelly said. Employees need skills training, learning opportunities, leadership coaching, personal accountability, job satisfaction and good self-care.

With careful attention to building systems to guide all members of the team to independent, efficient performances, the practice will have an opportunity to reach its highest potential, concluded Donnelley.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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