Neighboring Clinics Become Part of the Solution – Clinics Competing Is a Thing of the Past

Nov 3 | News, Practice Management, WVMA News

By Jo-ell Carson, Executive Director, Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association

The pandemic is changing many things—some for the positive. As members call and write in, there has been a common theme. However, one board member said it best:

“Neighboring clinics are no longer our competition. They have to be our allies.” – Dr. Sarah Novak

This is how many members are practicing today. It’s remarkable to see. Impressive, really. President-Elect Dr. Sarah Novak was referring to a regular topic of concern—the nationwide backlog in our referral clinics and emergency hospitals. While there are many causes, a predominant one is the logjam in our clinics. Clinics across the state (and nation) are struggling to keep up with an increased demand and COVID restrictions.

“We all have a backlog of appointments and are turning patients away daily—a shortage of clients is not a concern,” said Dr. Novak. “That former competitor may be able to help with overflow.”

Not all professions think this way. Many guard their client list no matter what. Yet, many veterinarians realize there is no reason to compete and many reasons to partner.

In this spirit, let me share some of the creative solutions that are happening or being worked on.

Working With Neighboring Clinics

Some emergency hospitals, referral centers and clinics are having weekly calls or keeping shared Google documents with others in their region. The goal is to know who has capacity. Clinic groups are being formed in 15- to 20-mile radiuses.

Rotating Urgent Care Hours

In any line of work, the urgent can overshadow the important. Emergency hospitals and local clinics are being overwhelmed by patients with urgent (and not-so-urgent) care needs. As the hospitals make room for the urgent care patients, chronic cases are bumped, and hospitals are having to decline emergency patients. Some local clinics are banding together to create urgent care hours—additional weekend or evenings hours with rotating staffing from all participating clinics. Others are using one DVM for urgent care cases daily or a few times a week. This model has helped the hospitals focus on emergencies and chronic diseases.

Sharing Support Staff

Many clinics are overwhelmed with phone calls and emails. Clients are often wanting to schedule appointments for situations that can wait or be triaged over the phone. Clinics and hospitals are using one CVT as a referral coordinator. We have heard talks of sharing a person to triage multiple clinics.

Members have expressed that the solutions to the bigger problem are not simple ones. Workforce shortages are real and there isn’t an immediate fix. However, clinics are finding creative ways to get a start on a solution and are doing more to ensure their technicians and assistants are utilized to the fullest extent.

“We are all in the veterinary community to care for patients and preserve the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Novak. “Working together, we will find solutions.”

The WVMA is fortunate to have some of the most skilled, creative and collaborative members who truly believe in the greater good. If you have an idea, share it. If you can collaborate, do it. If you can share a person, try to make it work. You never know, you may solve two problems instead of one.