As we transition out of Stay Home orders and begin to see our community businesses open up, it is important that veterinary hospitals examine the way they currently serve clients and determine how they will make changes to keep clients and staff healthy while continuing to provide care for pets.
We’ll walk through a possible hospital layout and discuss areas along the way that could help you navigate this process.
- As your clients arrive at your business, how will you notify them of recent changes to protocol? If you have a parking lot, work with local sign companies to create signage that may be temporary that can go in front of parking spaces welcoming clients and requesting they call you before entering. Including a parking space number will help identify them better than just asking for the type of vehicle they are in. (Today I had 4 blue pick up trucks outside!) Signage on your main entrance is the second place you can grab their attention and alert them to new changes. If you are only allowing 1 client in the lobby at a time or requiring masks, make the wording large with graphics to help draw their attention to the changes.
- The hospitality station that you once had to welcome clients has suddenly become obsolete. However, this is the perfect place for a sanitation station. You can quickly remove the coffee and accessories and replace these items with a sign, hand sanitation and masks if you would like to offer them to clients.
- As clients walk into the lobby, you will want to keep a safe distance between your clients and reception staff. Temporary plexiglass barriers are available online and are perfect for counter tops. Many of these offer a space underneath to pass paperwork or prescriptions through. These barriers are not permanent and will not require repairs when we are finally able to remove them.
- Looking around your lobby or pharmacy area, try to identify a window that is near a sidewalk or the parking lot. If you have a double hung window that opens, you can easily retrofit it to include a pass through drawer to pass prescriptions to clients who are picking up. If you have a fixed window, you will need to look into replacing the window completely. While there is more expense associated with this, clients will find this change convenient for years to come. Some hospitals may be set up so that a window could even be converted into a drive up window, which clients will love!
- Whether you have clients in the hospital or in the parking lot, receiving payment at the time services are performed is more important than ever. Our hospital recently worked with our web designers to incorporate a pay online function operated by PayPal. This allows clients to pay for prescriptions before coming to pick them up and frees our phones for clients that are paying at the end of an appointment. There are many online payment options to consider but incorporating these into your protocol will help free up your CSR staff and offer a reliable and instant payment option.
- Other changes will happen in the back of the hospital, where you have more staff in one area. It is important to take time to observe your busier areas like your pharmacy, treatment and calling centers. These ares often have staff that congregate and 2 way traffic. Walking through here and determining if you can set up directional arrows to keep staff moving in one direction will help keep distance between staff. You may need to close certain computers or assign exam rooms to specific teams to decrease the number of staff in one area. Although we are used to performing many quick procedures in the treatment areas like blood draws and nail trims, without clients in your exam rooms you should consider separating your staff into specific areas of the hospital. Perhaps you will do everything in exam rooms and leave the treatment area for hospitalized and surgical pets.
- It is important to take a look at the way your staff takes breaks and determine how you will handle these areas. If you have an extra consultation room, look at turning this into a break room for some staff and the other staff can use the main break area. Staff should be instructed to clean eating areas thoroughly once finished eating.
While it may feel overwhelming, walking your hospital and thinking through your way of servicing clients will help you create the best plan for opening. It is also a good idea to put your protocols in writing and address how things will change as your state goes from Stay Home orders to Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3.
If you’d like to see our hospital protocols or learn more about what you can do to modify your facility, please email Mark Moore at MMoore@fmdarchitects.com or Dr. Marianne Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org and they would be happy to share with you!