Has the time come to update and overhaul your veterinary practice? Like many veterinary practice owners, you may have dreamed of updating your practice for years but are only just getting around to actually doing so. Now that the time has come, you may be feeling a little concerned in regards to what areas it’s most beneficial to focus on – after all, your budget will only go so far, and you need to be mindful of this.
Dr Amanda Nicholls, who launched Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic in 2010, believes that veterinary practice design isn’t about lavish features. Instead, it should be about creating spaces that are practical and easy to keep clean. In addition to this, she believes that attention to detail is the key to success in relation to veterinary practice design.
According to Dr Nicholls: “Infection control is essential in any clinical environment and the first point to consider in any veterinary clinic design. The choice of all materials, i.e. flooring and cupboards is dictated by how easy and practical they are to clean. When considering designing the space, it is essential to avoid awkward nooks and crannies which could harbour bacteria.”
Before launching Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic, a feline-only veterinary practice which was a relatively new concet in veterinary care at the time, the building underwent a major overhaul. The existing ground floor shop was divided up and converted into a client waiting room, an examination room, an operating theatre and a cattery ward. While the original practice design was practical, to begin with, as Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic has grown as a business the space has become too small and is no longer as effective as it once was.
Extending the practice isn’t about creating a space that is overly lavish, it’s about designing a veterinary practice that is modern and incorporates all of the newest and most innovative ‘bells and whistles’ that allow customers to receive the highest quality of care for their pets.
Dr Nicholls says: “I am taking this as an opportunity to evaluate what has changed in the veterinary industry in the past eight years and ensure that Cat’s Whiskers remains a forward-thinking business.”
She continues: “We are about to embark on a major revamp – building an extension and remodelling our current space. This very exciting venture will allow us to build on the niche we have established locally as the one-stop shop for everything cat related.”
When it comes to overhauling and redesigning any veterinary practice, what is crucial to bear in mind is that the most vital aspect to focus on is creating spaces that are practical, customer-friendly, and easy to keep clean. Utilising a design that makes updating as and when necessary easier and less costly is also worth bearing in mind.
Here are some expert tips for keeping your veterinary practice shipshape, whether it’s a newly constructed building or an older premises, these tips should be highly useful.
Design spaces that fit your customer base
To ensure that your customers receive the best experience possible when visiting your practice, it’s essential that you design a space that fits your clientele. Has your customer base grown in recent years? If it has, then it may be worthwhile considering expanding specific areas of your practice, to allow you to cater to a higher number of customers, providing reduced waiting times and better access to the expert care on offer.
Due to incredible growth that Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic has seen in recent years, the client waiting room is set to be expanded, creating a space that is more than double the size of the current waiting room.
According to Dr Nicholls: “This will allow us to not only provide a larger waiting space but also to offer a much larger range of premium cat foods as well as products that will enhance cat health and wellbeing.”
“We will also be able to have an area dedicated to client education. This is important as we are finding today’s cat owners have a lot more information at their fingertips and want to be more involved in the decision making process when it comes to selecting the best treatments for their cats.”
Create spaces that will allow for improvement
The key to successful redesigning, according to Dr Nicholls, is ensuring that you are creating spaces that will allow for improvement regarding the services that are available from your practice.
Dr Nicholls will be adding a second consultation room to her practice to allow her registered veterinary nurses a private space to consult from while working alongside the consulting vet.
“Nurse consultations have been a big growth area in recent years, and I am keen to ensure the huge benefit nurses can bring to pet care is fully utilised.” She says.
Dr Nicholls continued: “The emphasis in 2018 is on wellness care, and veterinary nurses are ideally placed to deliver services such as parasite prevention, correct diet and weight management, behaviour, senior cat care and rehabilitation, which is where nurse consultation can be highly beneficial.”
Comfort is key
If you are going to update your practice, it’s vital to think about what your clients and your patients require. According to Dr Nicholls, comfort is vital in instances where cats have to remain overnight or for even longer periods of time for observation, which is why as part of
her practice update plans, she’s having new cat housing offer a ‘luxury home from home’ experience.
Dr Nicholls says: “We will be adding a second cat ward, in addition to our main cat ward currently used for day cases, a new quiet cat ward will be created on the first floor away from the main clinic. The cat housing will be a luxury home from home type, the same cosy design as our existing cat cages which our clients love with glass fronted doors for cats who want to see what is going on around them and hiding spaces for the more nervous cats.”
She added: “The cat condos in the new cat ward will be more spacious and will be designed for longer stays for treatment and medical boarding, giving the patient a large resting area, a space to eat and a separate toilet area. The lighting will be low and soothing and classical music will be played to assist relaxation. We will also be fitting webcams to observe the cats without having to disturb
Update your equipment
A vital area to invest in when updating your veterinary practice, according to Dr. Nicholls is your equipment. Veterinary equipment is changing all the time, with newer and more innovative designs being constantly launched.
Dr Nicholls says: “We are already kitted out with surgical and diagnostic equipment and are able to offer a full range of treatment on site due to my many years of veterinary experience specialising in treating cats. This means that very few cats will need to be referred to another multi-species veterinary clinic for treatment.”
She continued: “However, we will continue to invest in new equipment, with the additional space available allowing us to continue to offer sophisticated treatment for owners who are looking for high-end services for their cats.”
Invest in technology
Dr Nicholls says that one of the biggest changes she has seen in the past eight years of running Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Practice is the advancement in business technology.
She says that “when Cat’s Whiskers opened in March 2010, smartphones were a relatively new concept and the first iPad was one month off being launched” and since then technology has come a long way. To remain relevant as a business, it’s vital to stay up to date with all of the newest and most innovative pieces of technology.
She continued: “Three years ago we moved over to a wireless computer system using cloud-based technology for our patient records and we will be moving to a fully paperless system in the new clinic using iPads to generate client consent forms, to record treatments and monitor anaesthetics as they happen which will be put the information straight into the patient file.”
Dr Nicholls has seen first-hand how beneficial smart technology can be for veterinary practices, which is why she recommends that with each overhaul a veterinary practice undergoes, technology is always at the forefront of the design.
Planning permission for the extension to the current premises of Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic was granted at the beginning of April 2018, with building work planned to start in the summer of 2018 and due completion in parallel with the refurbishment of the existing space, in the autumn of 2018.