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September 8, 2020

The Profitability of Veterinary Teletriage

Holly Sawyer, DVM, Human-Animal Bond Certified, Regional Veterinary Consultant

While after-hours teletriage improves access to care, bonds clients to your veterinary practice, and supports work-life balance, we all know the service must be profitable to make business sense. So let’s look at some nuts-and-bolts numbers, straight from the three-and-a-half years of experience GuardianVets has gained in the field. 

The GuardianVets After-Hours Teletriage Model 

The practice pays a fixed fee per DVM per month for a licensed veterinary technician to interact skillfully and empathetically with your client after hours. ("After hours" is defined as weeknights, weekends, and national holidays). A single-DVM practice pays the base rate. A 5-DVM practice pays five times the base rate, no matter the call volume generated, ensuring predictable cost. 

By The Numbers

With GuardianVets’s current fee structure, a veterinarian would break even on the teletriage investment if the triager converted 2.5 non-emergent after-hours calls into next-day appointments each month. 

In fact, GuardianVets triagers generate an average of 15 daytime appointments/DVM/month. These are not projected, theoretical, or recommended-but-not-acted-upon appointments. They are verified, money-generating visits. 

Thus, the practice realizes immediate profit within the first month of service. 

If you’re more comfortable seeing concrete dollar signs, think of it this way: 

15 new appointments at an average client transaction of $200 = $6000/month of business from the triage service, the vast majority of which is profit. 

These numbers work across the board for small and large, rural and urban, on-call and referral-only practices. 

Keep in mind, GuardianVets offers additional flavors of service, including the chocolate-mocha-almond-fudge version of daytime overflow phone support, staff meeting phone coverage, and even a new call-back feature to touch base with post-operative and post-inpatient pets the night they are discharged. 

Fine-Tuning the Numbers

You’ll note that the profit argument above is based on next-day appointment generation, not total patient visit income from triage recommendations. This is done to even the playing field for practices who refer their after-hours patients directly to local emergency clinics. Clearly, on-call DVMs will earn additional income each time they provide after-hours care for emergent conditions. This, of course, would happen without the triage service. The beauty of GuardianVets teletriaging is the simple fact that the on-call doc will get a phone call for a bird’s broken blood feather, but can sleep through a dog’s avulsed toenail.

"But wait," you say. "Wouldn’t we get those appointments anyway from our generic answering service or incoming voice mail messages?" Why pay extra for a triage-specific service?

I delve into that topic in more detail in A Teletriage Case Study: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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