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Coronavirus & Veterinary Medicine: Current Top Tips

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, Southern California Veterinary Medical Association

Karen E. Felsted, DVM, MS, CVPM, CPA, PantheraT

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Published Friday, March 20, 2020, at 3:00 PM EST

Challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, including economic challenges and panic response along with the disease itself, will all have an effect on veterinary clinics. Fast and immediate action is necessary to adapt and continue providing vital veterinary care, starting with these tips:

1

Be a Leader

Don’t avoid the many concerns your team has—address them directly with solutions. Help your team understand the potential financial impacts of COVID-19 and the possible recession through open and honest communication, and let your team know what you are doing to keep the team employed. Communicate all new systems and policies to your team before implementing. 

Don’t neglect your physical and emotional health (or your financial health), and don’t neglect the physical and emotional health of your team. Implement policies immediately to protect your team from disease from the outside and from one another.

COVID-19 Resources

Clinician’s Brief is gathering information for veterinarians facing the coronavirus pandemic. Get the latest safety tips and guidelines here.

2

Clear the Waiting Room

Do not allow clients to gather in the waiting room. Options include allowing one client at a time to wait in the lobby while others wait in individual examination rooms, or implementing a curbside check-in system. Team members can meet clients in the parking lot, or send a text to clients when they may enter the building. If these options are not possible, limit clients to just 1 room in the practice with chairs set 6 feet apart and have team members move pets from that room to the examination rooms or the back.

3

Offer Convenience

Create a delivery or pickup service for patients, drugs, and pet food. Picking pets up directly from the owner allows you to administer care to pets whose owners may be unable to go directly to the clinic. Offer to deliver or mail drugs or pet food, or work with an online pharmacy to help clients access needed prescriptions or refills.

Offer "Senior Hours" or "Immunocompromised Hours" for those who need it. Make your practice available to high-risk clients by limiting access during specific times of the day. You likely have clients with underlying disease or compromised immune systems that you are not aware of.

4

Consider Telemedicine

For the safety of the clients and the health of the pet integrate telemedicine for your existing clients and to follow up on ongoing cases, working within your state’s regulations. To get started, you just need a phone and a system for documenting client discussions and charging for your time. Visit Instinct’s blog for more tips on getting started with telemedicine. Some cases may need to be seen in person, but offering telemedicine in all other cases can help mitigate risk.

5

Communicate with Your Clients

Become your clients’ go-to source for accurate information by sharing resources on social media and your practice website, and through email or text. Find resources for pet owners on the AVMA’s website.

If you aren’t already, become present on social media, at least daily. Use social media to reassure clients that COVID-19 is not a threat to their pet, to announce services such as telemedicine, curbside check-in, and to promote client, staff, and patient safety.

6

Protect Your Business

Financial insecurity is scary. Postpone major purchases, reduce inventory, and review the necessity of all expenses, and conserve cash.

Contact the following for help if you need it:

  • Ask your insurance company about business interruption insurance
  • Ask your bank about delaying loan payments (preferably interest-free) and apply for a line of credit (often known as a rainy day fund)
  • Ask your vendors to delay billing

Veterinary care is an essential service. Limited access to care can put pets at risk, but protecting your team is also critical. Be cautious and use common sense, and stay abreast of constantly changing updates at AVMA and brief.vet/covid.

COVID-19 Resources

Clinician’s Brief is gathering information for veterinarians facing the coronavirus pandemic. Get the latest safety tips and guidelines here.

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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