Go With the Flow: Workflow Analysis in Veterinary Practice

Written by Angela Beal, DVM
veterinary workflow

Workflow analysis can be a helpful tool for measuring your veterinary clinic’s efficiency and productivity. Instead of relying solely on two-dimensional reports, workflow analysis combines these metrics with the study of your team’s daily processes to create a 360-degree representation of how things get done—or not.  

What does it all mean? Workflow analysis benefits

Workflow analysis is a powerful way to gain insights into your practice’s daily operations and obtain micro and macro views of critical actions, protocols, and services. You can then use this information to make strategic adjustments to optimize your practice’s processes.

Workflow analysis benefits include:

Greater efficiency — Workflow analysis helps you identify time loss, bottlenecks, communication breakdowns and misunderstandings, and repetitive or duplicative work. Addressing these areas with targeted solutions such as upgraded practice technology, streamlined tasks, and clearly defined professional duties can help your team find hidden time to achieve greater productivity or simply take a breath.

Increased savings — In addition to saving time, workflow analysis can help reduce practice costs by revealing unnecessary expenses and waste. 

Reduced team fatigue — Daily frustrations, setbacks, and inconveniences can take their toll on workplace morale. Enhancing internal operations and maximizing efficiency can help your team enjoy a more productive and rewarding work experience.

How to conduct a workflow analysis 

Workflow analysis can be performed at various levels to suit your practice needs and resources. From a basic and practical analysis of one specific area to an in-depth, practice-wide review, each effort to measure productivity and efficiency can yield actionable results.

Common workflow analysis methods can include one or more techniques, including:

Team communication — Invite your team to share their experiences and opinions about what’s working well and what could be improved. While facts and figures can be helpful, your personnel can share qualitative information, including practical insights and ideas for attainable improvement or growth. Start by asking open-ended questions such as:

  • “Where in the workflow do you find yourself consistently waiting for someone or something?” 
  • “When do you feel limited by our technology?” 
  • “When are you apologizing to a client for a delay/error/omission?” 
  • “At what points does your work overlap with someone else’s?” 

Flow charts — Hand-drawn flow charts are a simple but effective way to visualize the basic workflow in your practice. For instance tracing the client and patient journey from arrival to discharge can help you recognize traffic flow issues, redundant or unnecessary steps or tasks, and excessive wait times. This structure can also be used to map the flow of information throughout the practice (e.g., from the phone bank to the veterinarian) or the receipt, storage, use, and disposal of resources or inventory items. 

Process mapping — While flow charts provide a simplified view, process mapping involves creating a granular layout of each process, such as checking a patient in, performing a heartworm test, receiving and processing payment, or completing the patient chart. Process maps include input, output, and actions for every step and may include a timeline detailing each step’s duration. Process mapping is the best place to start if you need a detailed understanding of specific services within your practice workflow.

Time and motion studies — These involve observing your team and measuring how long it takes them to perform specific tasks. Averaging this data over time and across the team can help uncover inefficiencies and opportunities to streamline workflow (e.g., increasing education and training, optimizing your practice layout, or updating technology). 

Pareto analysis — This method begins with a known problem and works to identify its most significant contributing factors. This analysis strategy is based on Pareto’s Principle (i.e., the 80/20 rule), which suggests that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.

Cost and resource metric assessment — Tracking metrics associated with operating costs, revenue per veterinarian, and resource utilization (e.g., equipment usage, team member time) can reveal ways to optimize resource allocation, improve cost-effectiveness, and maximize profitability without compromising quality of care.

Performance benchmarking — Once you’ve gathered your efficiency data, you can compare the desired metrics (e.g., invoice per visit, wait times, veterinarian-to-staff ratio) to industry averages and top-performing practices to see how your practice measures up and where to set your goals. 

When to conduct a workflow analysis

Workflow analysis should be performed regularly (e.g., quarterly or annually) to monitor your practice’s health and ensure peak operational efficiency. However, there are other occasions when a workflow analysis could be beneficial in determining efficacy, measuring implemented change, and ensuring steady forward growth. Such times include:

  • Restructuring, expansion, or new ownership
  • Incorporating new technology or services
  • Training and developing the team
  • Performing periodic quality checks 

Workflow analysis is a versatile and convenient way to understand your practice on a deeper level and discover personalized growth and improvement opportunities. Regular and objective reviews of your practice’s daily tasks and procedures, followed by targeted changes, can help ensure optimal efficiency, greater profits, happier teams, and sustainable practice success.