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Musings of a Veterinarian
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Archive for September, 2014

Guest Column: Helping Your Veterinary Practice Navigate the ACA

September 13, 2014 By: Dr. K Category: For Vets, Practice Management

The Affordable Care Act affects many veterinary practice owners and it’s vitally important to stay abreast of new laws. In particular, mandates for insurance coverage and the advent of the health insurance exchanges have muddied the waters of understanding. Below a guest columnist, Monica Maxwell, SPHR, discusses the appropriate steps in navigating the ACA mandates.

Overcoming the uncertainty: Implementing a health care plan in a veterinary clinic
By Monica Maxwell, SPHR

Many veterinary practice managers, like managers in other industries, are looking at the changes brought about by health care reform and are uncertain about how best to implement a health plan for their employees. You probably didn’t enter the veterinary business because you are particularly interested in learning about health insurance, but you do care about your employees’ well-being, and you no doubt also know that health benefits are a great recruiting and retention tool.

So how do you go about finding a plan that meets the needs of both your employees and your business?

First, talk to your staff members and find out what is important to them. What if they don’t want healthcare? Or they prefer an option that will allow them to gain access to alternative care (like acupuncture). You cannot please everyone, but at least you’ll get an idea of people’s actual priorities rather than simply making assumptions. Also, if you have fewer than 50 employees, note that sometimes individuals can find less expensive or better-value plans on a health insurance exchange than a small clinic can offer its employees. The Affordable Care Act allows for companies with fewer than 50 employees to offer insurance on the health insurance exchange without penalty. It is a viable option for many, so you might want to consider referring them to an exchange if that makes the most sense.

After you have a clear idea of your employees’ needs, you’ll want to find a good health insurance broker. Chances are you don’t have the time or expertise to dig into the details of all the plan options and keep track of changing regulations. Choosing a broker is an important decision, so take the time to conduct a thorough search and interview process. Trust and rapport are critical. Ask potential brokers about trends they’re seeing in the industry and how those trends might affect a business of your size. Talk about the renewal process, communication styles, what you need from each other and how you see each other’s roles. Make sure your broker understands your needs and is willing to have a strategic discussion when it’s time to change your plan. They should be knowledgeable and flexible with you on the changing trends.

Once you choose a health care plan, make sure the company provides the service you require and expect. The network of health care providers (and the quality of care, of course) is important, but don’t underestimate the value of customer service. Quick answers to questions and timely payment of claims reduce administrative headaches and save everyone time and money. Benefits are important and ensuring your staff feels good about the quality and service they receive is absolutely critical.

Choosing a health care plan may feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming, and it’s not just a bureaucratic chore. A health benefit that helps keep your employees healthy and happy will contribute to your ability to attract and retain the best staff members, thus furthering your practice’s goal of providing exceptional care and service.

Porter & MM

Monica Maxwell is the program director for On the Floor @Dove, DoveLewis’s online, on-demand training website for veterinary professionals. Maxwell graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and she has nearly 15 years of experience at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She shares her expertise with other veterinary practices through On the Floor @Dove.

Why Does My Vet Do That?

September 05, 2014 By: Dr. K Category: Opinion

As the years tick it’s easy to become a slave to routine. We do our jobs daily and soon a routine is formed. Over time I’ve become more engrained in my practice, adhere to the routine, and forget that many clients don’t understand why we vets do what we do during the course of an appointment! Wonder no more! I’ve compiled an explanation of some of the actions that may stupefy pet owners.

If I tell my vet my dog’s paw hurts, why does she look in his mouth?

Our critical listening skills are attuned, trust us! A thorough examination of every pet presenting with a problem is necessary to achieve a proper diagnosis. Did you know that a lethargic dog could have pale gums from internal bleeding or even red speckled gums from a platelet issue? Did you know we can look for jaundice in the gums and the whites of the eyes? I often reserve the “sore” limb for last so as to not develop a bias in my physical exam findings.

Why do they take my pet to the back for blood draws?

While some practitioners are comfortable and willing to draw blood in the examination room, oftentimes technicians and veterinarians will take your pet to the central treatment area for lab work. There are a few reasons for this. First, spare staff is typically roaming about and are readily available to provide an extra hand. Second, supplies and lighting are oftentimes better in the treatment area. Last, the techniques used to draw blood from domestic pets are not for the faint of heart. Typically, blood is drawn from the jugular vein when a larger sample is needed. I’ve been on the receiving end of a line-backer-sized man slumping down the wall in the examination room just from a peek at the syringe.

Why do they restrain my cat or dog even when he’s behaving?

For the safety of everyone in the room! My general rule of thumb is that if the animal has teeth he can bite, regardless of previous behavior. Pets in pain function on instinct and act accordingly. Proper animal restraint techniques can be misunderstood as being too “rough” or “hurting” the pet when in actuality handling techniques keep pets and staff safe during exams, vaccines, and blood draws.

Why does my vet require an examination for vaccinations?

Best medical practice means ensuring our patients are the healthiest they can be prior to receiving a vaccination. For vaccinations to reach full effect, the animal must be systemically healthy. We assess animals for signs of infection, disease, and fever. Giving a vaccination to a sick animal could be immunologically like not giving a vaccination at all. In addition, vaccinating a sick animal has the potential of exacerbating the disease – something none of us wants to see!

Why does my vet care so much about poop?

Your veterinary practice asks you to bring a stool sample to every annual examination but is it really necessary? YES! Dogs and cats, even indoor ones, can pick up intestinal parasites from a variety of locations including dog parks, walking trails, wild animals, consumption of wild animals, and insects. And did you know that tapeworms and roundworms can infect people? Hookworms can burrow in your skin! Veterinarians represent the front lines of public health and checking your animal for parasites protects both him and you!

Cutaneous Larval Migrans from Hookworms

Have wonderings? Ask in the comment section.