PetsApp & the Association of Veterinary Students (UK and Ireland) have teamed up to offer five students a fantastic opportunity to showcase…Read more
Thom Jenkins with Billa Schleicher from All Pets Vet Care·27 August 2020
Description: Thom and Billa discuss how Billa decided to become a vet. We look at the challenges of being a clinic owner and a veterinarian, and explore the incredibly successful introduction of virtual care at All Pets Vet Care. Finally, we discuss how virtual care is being used as part of preventative health plans.
Thom Jenkins (0:09): Welcome to Episode Two of the PetsApp podcast, today I'm joined by Billa Schleicher. Billa is a vet and owner of All Pets Vet Care in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Welcome Billa
Billa Schleicher (0:18): Hello.
Thom Jenkins (0:20): Billa am I right in understanding that before you became a vet, you were a vet nurse.
Billa Schleicher (0:25): Yes. Yes, I was. I, uh, so that was the way I decided to become a vet because I was a veterinary nurse first and then decided that being a vet will be the right choice of job for me in the end.
Thom Jenkins (0:37): Do you think that experience gives you a better understanding of the contributions made by each member of the veterinary team?
Billa Schleicher (0:44): Absolutely. You realize that, um, yourself, you know, don't just leave everything sitting there necessarily, or, and you realize how much nurses do now. It's, it's it's invaluable. And I also think that Nottingham Uni let's our vet students in their first year practice do nursing tasks. And I think that is a very, very good idea.
Thom Jenkins (1:07): Definitely, definitely. Um, I spent a year working sort of in a veterinary nurse assistant role before heading off to vet school. And, uh, and you're right. The sort of hands on practical experience that that gives you and the broader appreciation that gives you it is invaluable.
Billa Schleicher (1:21): Yes.
Thom Jenkins (1:21): You've been using PetsApp for almost six months now, how has this collaboration across the team in creating client experiences and delivering optimal patient outcomes reflected digitally?
Billa Schleicher (1:33): It's, it's nice that you can sort of hand things over. So, um, generally we have PetsApp sitting on a lot of different laptops, um, and whoever sits there will take the chat on, but usually it means that first of all, either receptionist or nurses might deal with a chat and then pass it onto the vets, uh, depending on what it is. Um, we might hand it back to them for payments or so, so it's, it's nice that you can just pass it on from different people within the team, uh, depending on who needs to deal with it, who can deal with it. Um, so that's a really nice feature that you can actually pass things over and yeah, it can, speed it up. So it's very, very handy,
Thom Jenkins (2:22): Definitely from, from the 85,000 interactions that we've seen take place on the PetsApp platform. We've seen that the best experiences, best outcomes, best customer feedback, monitization, average transaction values, et cetera, come from, you know, receptionists doing, uh, their part of the experience, then handing off to the nurse and handing off the vet. So it is all about this collaborative experience. Is that your, your experience too, that you have sort of more successful interactions when you have this collaboration across the team?
Billa Schleicher (2:52): Yes, because it means I wouldn't have the time necessarily to deal with the whole client induction. Um, so there are a lot of things where somebody's just requesting some wormer or whatever else, if I would have to deal with it all, there will be no blood. On the other hand, there are things that the receptionist can't deal with, that they can then pass on to me clinical questions. So yes, that makes it so nice that different members of the team can do their task and pass it on to somebody if they can no longer deal with it or pass back to us for the payments and so on.
Thom Jenkins (3:31): I suppose, with that example of the wormer, more traditionally, someone would be calling in to um, order that worming medication. Do you think this experience is better worse equivalent to a phone call? Does it benefit the team?
Billa Schleicher (3:43): No it's brilliant because we can deal with when we have the time for it, obviously at the moment with COVID, everything has been completely different to normal. Uh, we're working still in a split team at the moment. So only half the team is working at a time, which means we haven't got as many people in the practice at any one time. So if we would have to deal with somebody coming in now wanting to get a wormer or phoning in now, um, then we can't arrange when it suits us. Whereas if somebody orders the wormer through PetsApp, we can reply to that request. When we have the time we can then put the wormer out. We have, we use our pod to, um, put the drugs out for collection. Uh, we can request the payment for the wormer, um, online. So it's nice and easy, and we can fit it into the day when we have the person available to deal with it.
Thom Jenkins (4:38): And, and the team, how have they taken to this? There's this, they've been confronted by this new reality where they're delivering sort of virtual care experiences through PetsApp. How have they adapted?
Billa Schleicher (4:51): Most of them are a lot younger than me, so they are usually on their laptops or phones or whatever else anyway, all the time. So they, they type a lot quite quick on their phones as well than I do. Um, so they, they love it. Um, they find it very easy it's stuff they usually do in the first place pretty much. So, um, I guess it's more sort of, um, I rather prefer using PetsApp on my laptop rather than on the phone, um, because I can type better on it rather than having to type on the phone, but, um, yeah, for the youngsters, they, they they're so fast in replying backwards or forwards with chats. Um, they love it. It's, it's, it's a normal environment.
Thom Jenkins (5:35): And with that in mind, any advice for other practice owners and operators looking to implement such a change?
Billa Schleicher (5:43): Well, I think it's really just, you know, make, make use of the younger staff who sort of can, can do it quickly. Um, when you are not savvy, like me, no, then use a laptop. Um, but it's, I have it on my laptop. So if I have space in between my consoles, I could get, go into my chats. I could do a reply. Then I might see my next client. And then I might reply again between the, after the next client again. So I can again, fix it nicely where I where I can deal with it.
Thom Jenkins (6:19): Yeah. That makes sense. I think that one of the things about the current context is it's making millennials out of all of us, people that never before would've have engaged with this sort of technology are now engaging with it, right?
Billa Schleicher (6:31): Well, I don't think I would ever get a bit millennial and be able to type without looking at my phone. Definitely takes me 10 times as long as the youngsters. Um, but, uh, but no, it's, it's, it's a good, it's a good tool to have
Thom Jenkins (6:48): One thing I wanted to ask you about with this, you know, this idea of prioritization and response times that you've been talking about, you have chats coming in overnight, but you're not open 24 hours. How does that work?
Billa Schleicher (7:01): That works fine. Um, because I know for myself, I sometimes, I drive home and I think, Oh, I should have phoned, you know, ahead of stuff to make an appointment or whatever else. And now it's too late again. And then tomorrow I forget it again. So with something like that, it gives you the option to ask for an appointment when you remember, and it doesn't matter if it's midnight and we can respond to it the next day. So if somebody's phones up and says, Oh, writes through to PetsApp and says, I want an appointment for next Wednesday, um, for the dog for vaccinations, we can then respond the next morning and say, we have, you know, 10.30 available or four o'clock, which one would be suitable for you. And it's dealt with nice and easy.
Thom Jenkins (7:50): That makes a lot of sense. Uh, it helps ensure these sort of compliance gaps don't open up where they are forgetting things or, or buying alternatives and doing things that sort of depart from the veterinary recommendations I suppose.
Billa Schleicher (8:02): Yes. Yeah. Because it gives them time to deal with the things as it's convenient for them. Um, and it means that they, they will interact with us well then yeah than with somebody else,
Thom Jenkins (8:14): I love that because you're, you're basically saying that there's this sort of reciprocal convenience that it can be done on their terms and on your terms.
Billa Schleicher (8:23): Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It helps both sides.
Thom Jenkins (8:27): So um, can I ask you a bit more about your decision to open a clinic in Pembrokeshire, is it right you were originally headed to Canada?
Billa Schleicher (8:34): Yes. I was just going to come over to Britain for one year, um, because our final exam score over three months and three weeks. I'd already had had enough of exams. And for Canada, you have to do, eight multiple choice again. And obviously my English was quite reasonable, but when you do multiple choice, you only needed to get one word wrong and then you might mess things up. And er, so I thought I would come to Britain for a year and then, uh, then do my exams in Canada and leave, and that was in 92. So it didn't quite work out that way,
Thom Jenkins (9:14): The best laid plans and all that. But you fell in love with Pembrokeshire
Billa Schleicher (9:19): I, um, I applied for a job in Pembrokeshire initially, um, very naively like a new grad. I said, I only want to stay for a year, then I'm leaving. And they weren't interested in me, which, you know, in hindsight you think, well, yes. Why would they, um, but then, um, because I didn't leave and we happened to go on holidays in Pembrokeshire to a bed and breakfast just for a weekend. And the bed and breakfast owner said, Oh, you know, what, what do you do? and i said I'm a vet, and he said, Oh, you should work in my practice our practice, you know, it's a really nice practice. I said, Oh yeah, I know that practice. I applied there for job, but they didn't want me. And then a few months later I had just handed in my notice and the job I was in, um, I got a phone call from the bed and breakfast owner, and he said, they have a job in this practice that you applied for previously, give them a ring and that's how I ended back up in Pembrokeshire. And I always wanted things to be done a bit differently. So eventually I opened my own practice. So, and that's 11 years ago now.
Thom Jenkins (10:31): That's amazing. I love that the bed and breakfast owner was so invested in your career. That's, that's brilliant.
Billa Schleicher (10:38): It was, it was such great coincidence. It was just, you know, life at it's best, because I literally had just handed in my notice. I hadn't even sort ofapplied for any jobs yet. And, and there he was, so it was the perfect coincidence.
Thom Jenkins (10:53): You said you then went on to open up your own practice, obviously. How was that transition? How was, how was the transition from clinician to manager to business operator?
Billa Schleicher (11:05): Um, well, initially I was on my own, uh, so it was just me one receptionist, one nurse, um, doing my own out of hours, uh, for two and a quarter years, I think, until I had my first holiday, which was from Thursday morning to Saturday lunchtime. Um, I, it was, it was exhausting. Um, but it was also really exciting and it was, it was fun because yes, I could do things exactly the way I wanted them. I could have the practice exactly how I wanted it. Um, and that as the practice has grown. Um, and yes, you know, things don't necessarily get easier. So when you have things like COVID thrown in and all this stuff, um, so we have more challenges, more different challenges to before. Um, but at least I'm not on call all the time anymore now, which is very nice.
Thom Jenkins (12:03): That's definitely an advantage. Having started out my career in a similar position, I can totally relate. Um, sometimes people ask me where does PetsApp perform best? I think some people are skeptical as to whether there is value for clinics outside the big cities, embracing digital transformation opportunities, but candidly, other than your energy and enthusiasm, there was little to suggest that this single clinic tucked away on the Welsh coast would succeed with PetsApp, but thousands of digital interactions later with incredible client feedback, the results speak for themselves. Why do you think you and your team at All Pets Vet Care have been so successful with PetsApp?
Billa Schleicher (12:44): Um, we, I think we just used it in all it's different potentials. Um, so we obviously initially did, um, when locked down started did the video consults. Um, but it also meant that we could have, um, just check with the owners just to tell them of what was happening. Um, if they could pick up drugs or, you know, what, what the situation was, it meant that we could use a payment function, which has been really, really helpful, um, because we didn't want, we didn't want to have cash. Definitely not. Uh, we didn't really want to have people using our card machine. Um, so yes we were using where possibly, um, contactless through our glass door. Um, so if it was under 45 pounds. It was fine. Um, but for other payments, we would refer them back to PetsApp and ask them to pay through the, through the app.
Billa Schleicher (13:50): Um, it's been yeh, so helpful in a lot of things to sort of see if people needed to come in, um, to have an initial contact. So to see if when there was a skin lesion, do we need to see that? Can we just, you know, give them something without seeing it? Um, initially even before COVID I was looking beause, um, there's some building work done in our area now, which means there's less parking spaces. And there was one of my things of how to maximize, um, connection without people having to come in or spending shorter time in the clinic or a shorter time parking outside of the clinic. Um, so which means that if they want to order some food, um, and it's ordered and it's paid for, they can just drive up, collect the food into the car, gone. Um, so it's, it's very helpful. We only have four car park spaces, uh, in front of our practice. Um, and again, it means that we can make the most of it by not having people there for an extended period and especially then when Covid came in, it's been just perfect.
Thom Jenkins (15:10): Yeah. Yeah. I mean that shows an incredible understanding of the sort of customer corridor or this pet owner experience and actually getting the pet to the vet, and finding parking and all that sort of thing are big barriers to people accessing veterinary care. We know that from our sort of surveys of, of pet owners and what they've told us, and that seems like something that's going to be relevant, um, for forever, you know, whatever the context, um, how much of this do you think is going to continue to be relevant beyond, um, the sort of the backdrop of this terrible pandemic?
Billa Schleicher (15:43): Um, so we want to, because at the moment, we have three consulting rooms. So we have two vet consulting rooms and a nurse consulting room initially, if we get a puppy or kitten in, then usually we would have the puppy in with a nurse. Um, the nurse would do what we call a puppy or kitten chats where they go through general diet advice or behaviour or whatever else. Uh, and then we would see the client, um, as vets, and examine, vaccinate and all these things. Um, so what we want to do is to have the kitten chat, uh, portion of puppy chat, um, still goes through PetsApp. Um, so because we would not be able to use our third consulting for while, it's a lot smaller. We wouldn't get clients in there, even when we get clients back into the practice, which means we only have two consulting rooms available. And so we want to use PetsApp as our third consulting room as our nurse consulting room and try and do as many nurse interactions through PetsApp rather than having them in the practice.
Thom Jenkins (16:51): So you're, you're constructing this sort of online to offline blended experiences where it's not about, you know, we do it remotely and the pet owner stays at home and we don't physically examine the pet, but rather you're mixing the two things in together.
Billa Schleicher (17:05): Yes, yes. Now we also have mixed in so far that we, um, we'll get the pet in have PetsApp running as a video consult on our laptop, point the laptop to the examining table, the client sits out in the car. Um, lucky enough, we have a free wifi out there as well. Um, so, and they basically have a, a virtual consult only so far as the client isn't present, but the animal is present in the consulting room. So, and that again works really nicely to have, um, the client being able to see what what's being done and, uh, and doing a virtual consult with them, but still having, being able to properly exam them because yes, I think the, the value of a true, um, virtual consultation where the animal isn't present is limited. You know, you can't, you can't press an abdomen and all these things. So, but yeah, but by blending these things by actually examining the animal, um, but not having the, the owner present, while we don't want them in the building at the moment. And then we don't know how long COVID will continue if we get a second spike. So this might not be required after a while, or it might be going on for, for a while yet. So again, it's, it's a very useful thing to have.
Thom Jenkins (18:37): I think you're right. That the, the online to offline emerging of a sort of augmented experience, um, makes a lot of sense, but the idea that, um, telemedicine or any tool can replace the physical examination, I think that's a double edged sword of the current context is people are looking to these tools to try and replicate, uh, in person examination. And it, that's not what it's about. It is about augmenting our existing patient advocacy efforts, improving the experience for the owner, but also improving the experience for our teams and giving them more control over their own workflows.
Billa Schleicher (19:12): Yes. Yeah. And it, it does that very nicely,
Thom Jenkins (19:16): So Billa, your pet health plan includes unlimited consults. Does that extend to virtual consults now?
Billa Schleicher (19:25): Yes, it does. It does. Um, so we've done that quite consciously that we said, well, if they're getting free, extra, extra consults, why wouldn't they get virtual consult as well then? So we've made that clear from start as well that for our family plan members, it's, there will be no charge for a virtual consult as well. So again, which, which helps, um, when in lock down, you know, when everything was down to emergencies only, um, that people didn't feel they were not able to contact us now because we could only see them when there's urgency.
Thom Jenkins (20:01): That sounds like an amazing way to take this, this new approach, this new technology and integrate it into your existing operations. Do you feel that this offering of virtual care that extended benefits of being a pet health club member has the potential to increase the penetration of your pet health club?
Billa Schleicher (20:18): Yes. Yes, I would think so because it means that, um, you know, there's even more value for money now. Um, you know, not only that you can come in and don't get charged for your consultation, you can also, if you are, if you are shielding, um, then, and you can't come into the practice, you still have a chance to get in touch with us. You still don't get charged for that. Um, so it, I think it has helped a lot of people.
Thom Jenkins (20:47): That's brilliant Billa. I really appreciate you taking the time to share these insights with us. It sounds like you're relentlessly focused on improving the experience of your team, the experience of pet owners and therefore delivering better outcomes for patients, it's incredible what you guys have done.
Billa Schleicher (21:03): Well, it's been, it's been really good to have PetsApp available and to have these different options. And it's been fun as well to try and figure out how things are moving and, it has changed, how we've been using it. So initially everything was focused on the, on the video consults because it was locked down because you know we couldn't get to people. And now it's more the chat, the quick connections with people in between, um, you know, the ease of the payment and things like that. So it's like, you know, I expect that we'll be evolving all the time that we will be using different parts of it at different times. And so on. Um, I know we've been using it in between to, um, after an op to let people know that the animal's fine. Um, just to send them a quick picture of the animal and things like that, which is also nice for people to see. So there's lots of different things that it can be used for and because it has so many different functionalities, that's what makes it nice. If it will be just video consults it would be limited. If it were just to check, it will be limited. If it would be just a payment platform, it will be limited, and the nice thing of PetsApp is that it has all those, it combines all those things together.
Thom Jenkins (22:26): Well, our job is to keep delivering those sorts of features to you guys and it is incredibly exciting to see how you put those into action.
Billa Schleicher (22:35): It's been, it's been fun. It's been good. It's been much appreciated by all the staff as well. Who have embraced it and love it.
Thom Jenkins (22:46): Thanks then Billa, It's been great talking to you. Thanks for coming on.
Billa Schleicher (22:49): Your welcome.
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