In urban planning, identifying road placement is determined by thorough research, detailed measurements, exhaustive planning, and experienced designers. Nevertheless, bottlenecks happen; traffic grinds to a halt when many cars funnel into narrow spaces.
In business terms, similar bottlenecks occur when a work area gets more requests than it can handle. These bottlenecks, of course, don’t represent how well a business is run. Instead, they simply reflect the challenges of managing dependencies and resources.
Likewise, bottlenecks within your veterinary practice are nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, they are a sign that your practice is at a level of maturity where you are maxed out in terms of your capacity.
If you don’t address such bottlenecks, however, the overall performance of your practice may plateau. At worst, a gridlock of backups and disruptions can cause your practice performance to slip backward.
While there are plenty of areas where bottlenecks can arise at your veterinary practice, being able to recognize and address them effectively ultimately serves you well.
How to recognize a bottleneck: focus on your check-out
To get a clear sense of what bottlenecks in veterinary practices can look like, let’s focus on the check-out process.
Look for intrinsic limiting factors for capacity
Physically, the space leading up to a check-out desk is an excellent example of limiting factors in action. Realistically, there are only so many clients and pets that you can fit in the area between your exam rooms and the check-out desk. Safety precautions factor in as you’ll want to minimize the risks of anxiety, aggression, and disease transmission between pets.
Thus, for every practice, there is a definite number of clients that can be safely queued up to check out at any given time.
Look for converging dependencies that roll up into the bottleneck
Your checkout process usually illustrates bottlenecks across your practice. Planned client appointments, unplanned walk-ins, emergencies, time-constraints around exams, available boarding kennels, and more can all converge as potential problems at check-out.
You may even already be holding some clients in exam rooms longer than desired, or having to cap how many appointments you can schedule for certain time slots.
Determine the reason for congestion around the bottleneck
Identifying where you have bottlenecks ultimately dictates how you fix the bottlenecks. For example, you already know about the challenges of the checkout process. Along with physical logistics, there are always clients who want to chat, scheduling conflicts to troubleshoot, and other issues that cause slow-downs.
However, the payment process is the most vital part of check-out. Small inefficiencies around processing payments can quickly develop into bigger problems.
Once you identify a bottleneck, though, you must be prepared to address it with efficiency improvements, additional resources, or both.
How to battle bottlenecks and win
Let’s look at a few ways that payment processing can be used to break up some of your bottlenecks.
Widen the road: payment processing in treatment rooms
Bring your card-swiping device into the exam room and complete the check-out there. This means fewer people have to go to the check-out desk. In addition, difficult conversations about treatment costs or payment plans can be had in the privacy of the exam room. For pets with transmissible diseases like kennel cough, in-room payments can enable swift, socially-distanced exit routes.
Like adding another lane to a road, this option allows multiple checkouts to happen at the same time. If you only had one check-out lane before, in-room payment processing allows you to multiply your number of exit lanes significantly.
Pay tolls in the fast lane: integrated payment processing
Use integrated payment processing. This not only reduces the time it takes for a client to pay but also cuts down on staff time required to ensure the payment is correctly logged.
Manual payments can take up to six minutes per client to process, which may not seem like a long time. However, if typical visits take 20 minutes, roughly a third of the time is spent on processing payments. An integrated payment processing solution can:
- Eliminate double data entry by securely storing card information for future use
- Reduce wasted staff time sorting through invoices and receipts
- Minimize reconciliation time each day
All these small advantages together can take that six-minute manual checkout time down to two minutes.
Like having a toll pass in your car for the highway, integrated payment processing allows your clients to pay faster and more seamlessly.