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COVID-19, Featured, News

Best Practices for Veterinary Curbside Check-ins to Stem Coronavirus

Patricia WuestVice President of Media Strategy, NAVC

Veterinarians are adapting as coronavirus spreads and offering curbside patient drop-offs and pick-ups as a concierge service. Photo: New Africa/shutterstock.com

Curbside drop-offs and pick-ups at veterinary clinics and hospitals essentially keep pet owners out of the exam room, but still connected to the veterinary medical team. Adopting this “concierge service” minimizes the number of people entering the veterinary practice or hospital and reduces any risk of spreading Covid-19 disease, keeping both clients and the veterinary staff safe.

At the time of this writing, two dogs (Hong Kong) and one cat (Belgium) have been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, but infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people. You may need to reassure clients about this and direct them to the website of the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC is cautioning that further research is necessary to understand how animals could be affected.

If the client has contracted the virus, direct them to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s guidelines for pet owners who have contracted the virus.

Here are our tips for implementing this concierge service efficiently, safely and effectively.

1) Notify clients via phone calls, texts, website messages and social media that during the COVID-19 pandemic you are implementing curbside drop-offs and pick-ups for appointments. Post signs on the clinic’s door to inform pet owners of new protocols currently being utilized at the clinic.

2) Ensure that your practice can handle all registrations, initial deposits, communications, treatment authorizations and discharges via the phone.
Payments will need to be made by credit card, Care Credit (My Pay Provider) or check. Explain that during the crisis, you cannot accept cash payments.

3) Once you’ve determined that a pet needs to come to the practice or hospital, tell the pet owner where to park once they arrive and to remain in the car. Instruct clients to call or text when they’ve parked.

4) Designate one staff member to meet the animal’s owner at their car and bring the animal inside.

5) Once the animal is in the exam room, either call or text the owner to discuss any issues the pet is having. Don’t forget a bit of “small talk” — ask how the owner is faring during the Covid-19 crisis.

6) Conduct the examination as if the owner is in the room, apprising them of anything you’re noticing and asking questions about what the owner has noticed.

7) Discuss treatment options and provide recommendations and a plan for moving forward. Establish consent for treatment.

8) Provide financial estimates and obtain authorization by phone.

9) If the treatment to be provided will begin immediately, a decision needs to be made, based on the amount of time needed to treat the patient, whether the pet owner will wait in their vehicle or choose to leave the premises. Both parties need to communicate this clearly.

10) If choosing to wait, make sure the pet owner is waiting in a designated area that does not interfere with the curbside drop-off of other patients.

11) Whether the client is waiting in the car or at home, a member of the medical team should provide updates regularly via phone.

12) Have a team member notify the pet owner via phone about their pet’s discharge status. This is also the time to discuss prescription medications that may be needed, any medication refills, and scheduling of follow-up appointments.

13) If the patient is being hospitalized, you need to inform the client that no visits will be permitted.

14) If the pet owner is purchasing prescription medication refills or prescription food, they still need to call or use your online refill portal (no drop-in visits). The same procedure applies when they are picking up the prescription medication or food as when dropping off a patient for an exam — they should call upon arrival and a veterinary team member will deliver to their vehicle.

Learn More

Want more tips on running your practice smoothly? Visit the Practice Management archives of our website.