Curbside service is harder for us, there is no question about that! In pre-COVID days, you would call or text for an appointment, set something up today or within the next few days. You still call or text in, but often the phones are put on hold while we finish up something else. We have brought back all of our college students and hired a few others, but it seems lots of people sitting at home need to contact their vet. There are also extra calls. Stopping by and waiting for a script refill has to have at least one call, usually more. An appointment used to have a call to schedule, then a call for us to check up on your pet kid. Now it has both of those plus a call that you are here, a call for completed forms, a call for history and permission to do whatever, a call with results or the plan, and a call for payment. Sometimes there are even more calls. For the first time in thirty plus years, people sometimes hear a busy signal when they call in. Then they come to tell us that our phones are down. No, it is just that six lines is not enough for all of the calls.
We have done more than a few things to help. We have some forms online on our website. The new client and patient form and the COVID 19 check in form are now online. More people are using the online request for a refill or appointment online also. I think we will work on getting boarding forms online also. (You still have to call or text and tell us they are completed, but you can do them at home before you even get here.) We try to let you know if you have time for errands or not. Facetiming via iPhones and iPads work very well. Zoom meetings work okay for droids. It does allow for others to be present that cannot be.
While, it is correct that we are allowed to have people in the building, we are not ready just yet. We are allowed one person per pet per visit. They must wear a mask at all times. They must not touch anything and must stay six feet away from all staff at all times. After they have left we have to COVID19 sanitize everything in every space they were in. Nobody listened to us before curbside was mandated about the one person, masks and six feet. We do not have front desk sneeze guards installed yet and we do not have the extra people to clean our lobby after each person. Without this, I cannot insure your safety and will not risk your safety nor my staff’s. Also, if any positive client visits and we have any breaks in any of these protocols, we may be forced to close for two weeks. Therefore, we will remain curbside for at least another month. Trust us that we want to see you back in the office!
We have been doing texting for quite a while. Our main number (606.928.6566) allows for texting. Texts then show up on all of the office computers and a few personal cell phones. (Not mine, but a couple of staff members thought it was easier.) We are fairly good about responding within 15 minutes. If we don’t, the notification may have been buried and try again. I will say one of the worst ways to contact us is Facebook. I do not have Messenger on my phone on purpose after three restaurant dinners were interrupted by nonclient calls. The staff is not allowed to be on Facebook at work. Only if I am sitting at my work computer do I have a chance of seeing the message. If it is about an animal, then I have to remember to ask for the record and then after I get it, the answer search starts all over again. You can see how a 9:30 at night message might get delayed when I am doing appointments and treatments the next morning without checking Facebook again. My staff was asking why Jake and Lucy weren’t picked up from boarding. I told them their owners changed their plans. When Katie asked how I knew that, I realized that I didn’t know they didn’t know. It never occurred to me that someone would expect me to pass on a message for the client care representative. I assumed they were also telling me, not only telling me.
A step forward from texting is telemedicine. We started our new Medici ap the week before COVID hit. Because of COVID, the rules about telemedicine have recently been relaxed and we are allowed to do more. We still cannot diagnose or prescribe for patients that have never been seen by us. But rechecks and follow-ups may not need a trip into the hospital. Sometimes it can prevent a trip to the ER. Sometimes, it helps when we are too booked to see appointments. Just this week, we figured out that the Medici ap allows us to send photos of hospitalized patients. This is something that clients appreciate and is relatively easy for us to do.
Another thing that we are doing online is hiring. Our forms are now online and go to a separate email account. There is no more “Hey, did you see So And So’s application? I can’t find it now.” We also automated part of the application to try to see who was interested in our job versus who just wants a job and will bail at the first sign of more pay or better hours. Phone interviews will be conducted before the first in person interview.
There is another way that things are different. We are busier with more medical cases.. Some vets think it is because you are with your pets more and noticing things now. I think that you are not spending money at restaurants, fast food and activities and are spending enough time to realize how important they are to you and you are bringing them in sooner. Regardless of why, we are fully booked (with spaces between appointments to help slow the spread of COVID 19). We are booked two to four weeks out for surgery. Appointments for client may take a few days or be a day long drop off to be worked in as we can. New client appointments may be a bit. And for the first time ever, we are turning down some pet emergencies. I know we are not the only one for that. Some clinics are turning down their own patient emergencies. I am lucky that I have a full and well trained staff right now and we can keep up with ours. We feel for the patients and try to help, but sometimes we no longer can without compromising the care of our own patients.
We used to stagger lunches so we were available for folks to run errands at lunch time. We now close from 1:30 to 2pm to clean and allow for my people to get some lunch. Also for the first time ever, we closed for a three day weekend. We have been working hard and it is stressful. While we are getting better at it, there is no question that it is taking a toll on everyone. We all are using this time to refresh and renew. Katie, Kayla and I all went to the socially distanced Chase Rice country concert. No bands, only the lead singers and folks sat in their truck beds or in lawn chairs. I’m still not sure I like country music, didn’t care for the vapes and cigarettes and did not like a couple of the songs, but I enjoyed the experience and loved the amazing fireworks. I told my staff that I thought that these outdoor drive in concerts would probably continue in the future. Way better than being stuffed under the person in the chair next to you.
I don’t know if we will be taking three day weekends in the future. I do know that many of the things that we do because of COVID will stay. Online forms, telemedicine, more texting, outdoor concerts, some curbside and drop off appointments will be things of the future. We’ll see about lunch and three day weekends. That has been kinda nice.