Hospital of the Year Award

From the article entitled “Mission Accomplished” by Steven Bennaka for Veterinary Economics:

On any given night, you might find a Boy Scout troop in the multipurpose room at Mission Animal and Bird Hospital. Sometimes a Future Farmers of America group or homeowners association will meet there. In fact, any number of nonprofit groups use the facility as a meeting place, all at no charge. Practice owner Dr. Bob Cartin wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s my favorite part of the hospital,” he says. “These events are cost-free and are great for marketing.”

In addition to this innovative way to reach out to clients, the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition judges were impressed with the practice’s efficient layout and striking attention to detail, and they wasted no time in naming the practice the 2011 Hospital of the Year.

Practice for the People

If there were ever a veterinary practice engrained in its surrounding community, Mission Animal and Bird Hospital would be it. In addition to loaning out the multipurpose room, Dr. Cartin also hosts community events like Night at the Dog Park, where locals can bring their pets for an evening of fun and socializing. He also periodically invites children in for an inside look at veterinary medicine. “Many of these kids will be pet owners in 10 years,” he says. “Their perception of what veterinary care should be is what we show them.”

Keeping that in mind, Dr. Cartin has created a fulfilling client experience unlike that at many veterinary hospitals. Clients in the reception area can observe birds in the aviary or cats in the cattery, or they can focus instead on educational videos playing on the lobby’s four televisions. They can also visit the coffee and snack bar or borrow a laptop at the front desk to take advantage of the practice’s free WiFi access.

At the practice’s old facility, one of the most common client complaints was wait time. To address this in the new facility, he designed a pair of features that streamline some aspects of the client experience. Clients picking up a pet from the practice’s daycare or salon can call ahead, which prompts team members to put the patient in a holding cage. A special 10-minute parking space allows clients to get in and out with ease. Another 10-minute space is designated for clients picking up prescriptions or pet food. Again, clients can call ahead to place the order, then call again from the parking spot, where a team member will deliver the medication or food right to the client’s vehicle.

These perks are all part of Dr. Cartin’s philosophy, part of which seeks to provide the best level of care and service for clients. “At the old facility, I was concerned that we offered all of these great services, but the building didn’t reflect our level of care,” he says. “There’s a greater perception of value at the new hospital.”

Build One for the Team

In addition to caring for clients and patients, Dr. Cartin wanted to make sure his team members would get the most out of the new facility. In the old building, employees were practically walking on top of each other, making it difficult to maintain an efficient workflow. That’s not a problem in the new 11,000-square-foot facility. “When I laid out the plans, I based everything on efficiency so people had room to walk,” Dr. Cartin says. “We wanted it to be very open and airy.”

Dr. Cartin also wanted his team members to take ownership in the new facility, so from the moment he broke ground, he accompanied them on weekly tours of the building site. Floor plan in hand, the team walked through the building as it was being constructed to visualize how the new workspace would look and how it would function upon completion. Some team members even wrote their names on the studs in the areas they’d be working.

But with the upgrade came new issues to worry about—namely, communication. In the old cramped quarters, team members had no choice but to know where coworkers were at all times. To maintain a feeling of collaboration, Dr. Cartin went retro, installing a silent, light-based communication system often found in old dental offices. Doctors and technicians can toggle the switches on and off to indicate where they are within the hospital, as well as which rooms need to be cleaned. “It’s worked vey well,” Dr. Cartin says.

Finally, to ease the transition into the new digs, Dr. Cartin installed the practice’s new phone system in the old facility two months prior to the big move. This allowed the team to get used to the system so they could hit the ground running in the new facility. “It meant one less stress factor on opening day,” Dr. Cartin says.

Colors to Keep the Patients Calm:

While the building is a haven for clients and team members, Dr. Cartin’s patients remain at the heart of his design objectives. To make sure he could meet their needs, he consulted with an interior designer who had researched the effect of color and light on animals’ healing abilities. These concerns are evident throughout the hospital.

Large windows and skylights bring natural light into the hospital, and a variety of colors—both vibrant and calming—create a soothing environment for patients and team members alike. Fun artwork throughout the practice bring a splash of personality. The outdoor play area gives dogs a place to romp, and both the exotic and feline boarding areas are spacious and well-ventilated.

These perks have done wonders for the practice’s patients, Dr. Cartin says. “Our boarders all seem more mellow and calm than they did in the old facility,” he says. “We’ve noticed a tremendous difference in the stress levels at the new facility.”

For Dr. Cartin, these changes have reinforced his decision to build. And while some veterinary practice owners have shied away from building in the weak economy, Dr. Cartin says the time was right for Mission Animal and Bird Hospital. “We’re ready to meet the improving economy,” he says.