Post Pandemic: Preparing Your Veterinary Hospital for What's Next

Sunday night, my family and I went for a drive into our little town in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Like many, we’re under a stay-at-home order, only to be violated by the need for life-sustaining activities.

We were already fully stocked with groceries thanks to my years-long automated ordering habits, but we hadn’t been out of our neighborhood in 14 days.

So we all piled into the car to undertake one of our recent missions: financially supporting our favorite local restaurants during the pandemic.

With a large tip, hand sanitizer, and lemon-scented Lysol in hand, we were off to the prearranged drop spot.

Is this what a drug deal feels like?

As we drove into what is now a ghost town, the emptiness hit us. The struggles our town (and many others like it) face was tangible in the abandoned businesses and lonely parking spaces.

But one simple handwritten sign hung in the town center:

🌈 This Too, Shall Pass.

After what has been a surreal several weeks for planet Earth, it was a great reminder.

Most of us have had to make unexpected and difficult choices for our communities and businesses during this time. And although there are signs that this bizarre temporary reality may be peaking, some level of physical distancing will likely continue for the weeks and months ahead.

But the key word here is temporary.

Tests, treatments, vaccines, and socializing will inevitably flow. This will pass, eventually. In a few years, we’ll look back stronger and smarter.

One thing is for sure amidst the unknowns: The community of animals that your hospital cares for will still need you. Will you and your team be ready?

Here are some short- and long-term thoughts to help you prepare for the weeks and months ahead.

💰 Financial Assistance Is Available

US-based businesses and teams are eligible for some of our generation’s most far-reaching financial assistance via the CARES Act.

Educate yourself on what’s out there for everyone, and be sure to share your insights with your team. There are forgivable loan options to cover payroll (for you and for your contractors), tax changes regarding real estate, and favorable changes regarding paid leave, 401Ks, and student loans.

Talk to your tax and business advisors to find out what you qualify for and ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.

Want a primer? I like this Justworks Guide and VIN's Handy COVID-19 Financial Relief page.

🦁 Leadership Matters More Than Ever

First, if you lead a team, now’s the time to overcommunicate, be omnipresent, and go overboard with check-ins. In the coming weeks and months, it’s important that you are available for anything your team needs.

Next, as every ER veterinarian knows, part of being a good crisis leader is being a good decision maker.

Put perfectly by former Honeywell CEO Dave Cote, who earned praise for successfully navigating the great recession: “What matters is getting feedback from all your people, then making a decision.”

What does this mean for your organization?

Now isn't the time for red tape, large committees, or SWOT analysis. This can be uncomfortable to hear, especially for large corporate groups or independent hospitals that normally operate this way.

But these aren’t normal times.

Some of my favorite thinking on what I call the “version 1 mentality,” which can serve any organization well right now, comes from Jeff Bezos. His concept gems listed below have helped me:

  • No PowerPoint presentations.
  • Make decisions with 70% of the information you wish you had.
  • Don’t treat all decisions the same because most decisions are reversible.
  • Disagree and commit.

A great summary on those and more can be found here: How Jeff Bezos Uses Faster, Better Decisions To Keep Amazon Innovating.

🍋 Serve Some Lemonade

During economic downturns, there are always opportunities hiding in plain sight for the long-termists among us. It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s most iconic companies began around downturns (eg, General Electric, Disney, Cisco, Google, PayPal, Airbnb).

Here are some opportunities hospitals should consider:

  • Hiring: Ahead of the pandemic, this was the number-one challenge for every veterinary hospital. Now the market is flush with unemployed, talented humans—more than any other time in history.
  • Telemedicine: Overnight, an entire population got an addictive taste of what a streamlined telemedicine appointment might be like at a veterinary hospital. Many of your clients won’t want to go back. So look at this as the launch of a new potential revenue center.
  • Prepare for the Next Pandemic: Invest in tools and process. Document and refine your operations. This is your dry run toward a future where you and your team will be a lot less disrupted when the next Black Swan event comes around.
  • Modernize Operations: Necessity is the mother of invention, right? You’ve been given an opportunity to get laser-focused on rainy day projects. Think modernizing the technology (Hint: A great time to install new software), cleaning up your charging structure, and enhancing all things operations to help you thrive for the months and years to come.
  • Do Some Good: Look for ways to do your part. For many, that may mean supporting your teammates and their families through employment. But there are other creative ideas. Like matching employee charity donations through contributions to their 401K since it’s a great time to invest in the stock market.

💭 Post-Pandemic Questions to Ponder

The pandemic has caused a lot of suffering for a lot of people. But there have also been some unexpected silver linings.

One of the lessons many people are learning right now is the value of a slower pace of life. There’s less personal and professional busyness. Fewer unrealistic commitments. Less rushing. Less lost time commuting. The cost of going so fast in work and life has become more visible for many.

How can we maintain this slower pace when we resume our lives?

Another takeaway: There will likely be pent-up demand for our services. All of those dentals, elective surgeries, vaccinations, senior visits, and puppy adoptions are stacking up.

How can you prepare your team now to handle this appointment load later?

💪 Instinct is Here for You

Besides making sure that your software isn't on the long list of things you need to worry about, we're here for you.  

You’re probably hearing that a lot from companies, but we mean it sincerely.

We have a lot of experience and peer learning to share, so Instinct questions or otherwise (or just a roll of toilet paper), don’t hesitate to reach out if you think we can help. There’s a reason Instinct's founding principle is we care.

We’ve also been publishing articles (and keeping them updated weekly) to help you learn from other Instinct hospitals.

Finally, we know that as we look to the months ahead, there will be a new normal that involves continued distancing. Many hospitals are looking for tools to make care safer and more organized.

If you aren’t an Instinct hospital yet, know that we now offer options to go-live at centers faster and from afar.

And for those of you already using Instinct, know that we’re pushing forward at lightning speed with all the innovative projects we’re working on for your teams this year.

Be kind out there, and wash those hands.

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