Why Veterinary Clinics and Animal Hospitals Are Using a Queue Management System
Wait times have always been a big concern for veterinary clinics and animal hospitals. Even with an appointment, pets and their owners may be forced to wait to be checked in, then wait in a lobby, then wait in an exam room, then wait to check out. The reality isn’t ideal, but pet owners accept it so their companions can receive care.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the problem worse. Between social distancing and an uptick in pet ownership, wait times ballooned at many animal hospitals. Some lobbies were closed, requiring pets and their humans to wait in their cars for hours to receive urgent care. Hospitals struggled to meet demand, achieve efficiency, and provide the care pets needed.
A queue management system offers a way for veterinary clinics and animal hospitals to reduce wait times as well as reduce patient stress. These systems also make financial sense because long wait times never help the bottom line.
Queue Management Pain Points That Are ‘Ruff’
Veterinary clinics and animal hospitals face many of the same queue issues that their human healthcare counterparts do—and in some cases, the issues are worse. These pain points include:
- Same-day and emergency appointments: Many veterinary clinics and animal hospitals offer preventative, instant, and emergency care, all in the same facility. Previously scheduled appointments are easier to plan for, but immediate care is unpredictable. One day, you might be slammed, and the next—with no explainable reason why—you might be light.
- Waiting rooms: During busy times, waiting rooms might become crowded as pets and their humans wait their turns for care. Furthermore, some animal hospitals may not have reopened their waiting rooms because of COVID-19, forcing patients to wait outside or in their cars.
- Triage: Just like with a regular emergency room, veterinary personnel are tasked with determining which animals most urgently need care and which ones can wait. Although this is necessary to provide the best care for all patients, it can be frustrating for owners who are forced to wait for what might just be considered minor care.
- Animals, animals, animals: The pets themselves bring an extra chaotic element to queue management. As any hospital knows, combining long wait times with energetic puppies, meowing cats, animals’ need to pee and poop, and cranky humans doesn’t create the most efficient environment.
Improving the Patient Experience
A queue management system for veterinary clinics and animal hospitals offers benefits that help pet owners and, ultimately, improve care. Consider:
- Pet owners can wait from their own homes after checking in and then return when their turn approaches. The queue management system can notify them on how much time remains and recommend when they should come back to the hospital.
- Even if you want patients and their owners to remain in the waiting area, queue management systems make the process more efficient. That leads to shorter wait times—both in the lobby and in the exam room—and better care.
- Information about the pet—from basic info to pre-existing conditions to details about what care is needed—can be inputted through the system via owners’ smartphones. Those details can be immediately accessed when the time for care arrives.
- Pets feel less stressed if they aren’t waiting as long. Having fewer animals in the waiting area also creates a calmer environment.
- Pet owners are more satisfied with the experience, knowing that the wait wasn’t so bad, that staffers were in regular communication with them during the wait, and that their pet received the care it needed.
Not every outcome at a veterinary hospital is happy—that’s the nature of most healthcare. A patient-centric queue management system helps ensure that, no matter how urgent or stressful the situation is, at least the wait isn’t making it worse.
Improving Animal Hospital Operations
Veterinary clinics and animal hospitals are still businesses and need to make money. Even nonprofit animal hospitals must be fiscally responsible. Queue management systems streamline operations for veterinarians—as well as other businesses catering to pets, such as groomers and kennels—and without requiring a significant capital investment. Some of these gains include the following.
With a queue management system, hospital employees spend less time managing the queue and attempting crowd control, which frees them up to focus more on care and the customer experience.
Triage becomes less hectic and more successful with a system to manage which animals need immediate attention. Other pets aren’t ignored but, instead, are given the appropriate priority. Moreover, doctors and technicians better suited for specific care—for example, cat specialists to care for a sick kitten—or requested by the pet owner are ready to provide service when the patient’s turn comes up.
Veterinarians and hospital employees are deeply committed to the well-being of the animals they serve. A queue management system improves the quality of care and, in turn, improves employee satisfaction.
More efficiency allows animal hospitals to schedule more appointments and see more walk-ins without decreasing the quality of care. That ultimately boosts the bottom line.
Some queue management systems can deliver targeted ads, messaging, and coupons for medicine, food, accessories, and so on, right to pet owners’ phones, while they wait. Besides providing information about products that will help the pet, these targeted offers increase sales and inject profitability into the minutes spent waiting.
The experts at Qtrac know what veterinary clinics and animal hospitals need because we’ve already implemented our queue management system technology at their businesses. Read our case study on how we helped a Michigan veterinary hospital improve both appointment scheduling and patient communication.