Harness the proper use of technology for your veterinary practice

By Brian Topper

How can technology help you become more efficient?
Female veterinarian looking at tablet

Today's pet owners expect innovation at their veterinary practice. Already, there is a growing gap between practice capability and client expectations. For today's companion animal veterinary practice, there is a case for contemporary, integrated solutions that will help run an efficient and effective business.

Most veterinary practices recognize the benefits of advanced practice management solutions and technology. Yet, technology for its own sake has no intrinsic value to a practice. The value comes from using these solutions to solve problems. When used correctly, technology can remove barriers, support decision making and extend reach.

Problems with outdated technology

Before we talk about how new solutions and technology can benefit both your clients and practice, let's consider issues caused by outdated systems and processes.

From a hardware perspective, older computers tend to be significantly slower and less secure. This can adversely affect workflow (leading to inpatient clients, frustrated staff, or poor record keeping), or it could lead to catastrophic failure and data loss. Veterinary practices should consider cloud-based systems when feasible so that servers are kept updated and up to date. Moving to this Software as a Service (SaaS) model places a far lower burden on hardware in the practice and will allow the use of more flexible and less expensive devices.

Although the problems tend to be less noticeable, older software can be equally challenging. When software programs don't communicate with each other, it wastes time and effort. Isolated and outdated technology may require your practice team to enter and exit various applications to complete different steps in a workflow. These breaks cause gaps in data, limit actionable insight, and diminish effectiveness.

Unfortunately, this isn't solved by complex, “all inclusive” systems that were developed prior to contemporary concepts like “orchestration” and “microservices.” With older software systems that have been developed in isolation over long periods of time – we call these “monolithic” systems - veterinary practices might only use about 20 percent of the tools available to them because additional functionality is buried in long menus and less intuitive steps. Having to dig around in the system to find the correct tool increases the knowledge and training burden on the practice and can impede adoption of new functionality.

We don't want users hunting for functionality in complex specialist software systems , or across disparate solutions. It is neither efficient nor sustainable, and it clearly doesn't help the business of veterinary practice.

Workflow first, technology second

The best path to sustainable, efficient, and effective workflow is to design processes first and then use technology to power those processes.
There are a number of components in the veterinary patient care journey – also known as the “customer journey” in other industries. The way your practice leads clients through this journey could be your competitive advantage and what makes your practice special.

Once you determine how you plan to do this, it's important to streamline the process so that it's repeatable and measurable. Then, the ability to view and act on all of the clinical and front office tasks that make up your process within a single system will improve your practice's productivity and create a more positive client experience.

Accessing necessary information in one place also eliminates communication bottlenecks between staff and lets them quickly disseminate critical information to clients.

Using software to automate tasks in the workflow, when done correctly, can free up time for efficient veterinary practices to spend on strategic activities, such as evaluating and planning, that push the practice forward.

Integrated software makes it easier to run your practice

Systems that cooperate with each other through effective integration bring value to the practice. The best example of this are true platforms, which are defined by the presence of what are called network effects. With network effects, each new application added to the platform increases the value and utility of the existing applications on that platform. For example, each time a practice adds a new application to its platform, such as telemedicine or text to pay, this would improve the usefulness of the existing applications like client communications and wellness plans.

If adding new applications in your practice doesn't increase the value or utility of existing applications in your practice, then you don't have a platform and you're missing some of the benefits of effective integration.

Having to dig around in the system to find the correct tool increases the knowledge and training burden on the practice and can impede adoption of new functionality.

Managing client data

Of course, systems are only as good as the information entered into them. Not having clean client data makes it difficult to gain useful insights or make improvements to the management of your veterinary practice. This also complicates the transition to newer systems or technology. For example, in some older, monolithic, practice management software systems, data entry fields are free text. This means that each user can and must type whatever they wish into a field in the system. Over time and with enough typos or abbreviations, there could be multiple misspellings of a dog breed. If you then want to analyze data for that specific breed, you'll run into a roadblock. Data management becomes this big, complex mess.

Inefficient client data management also contributes to communication barriers. Let's say you want to communicate a message to pet parents who previously brought in their pet for a spay or neuter procedure. A communication roadblock arises because scheduling software typically does not leave space to indicate the type of surgery. Clever practice administrators can come up with workarounds to source the data. But, once again, this is not a good use of their time, and it's slow.

Thankfully, newer practice management software systems tend to be developed from the ground up with a focus on data integrity, and these systems are designed for integration (as opposed to the isolation of the monolithic systems).

Technology is a value driver

Technology enables solutions that help veterinary practices solve problems. When appropriately applied, it facilitates changes to workflows that bring significant improvements in efficiency and, ultimately, effectiveness.

How can well-implemented solutions change the future of animal health? The promise is pretty massive if we harness the proper use of technology.

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About the Author

Brian Topper

Vice President, Product Strategy
MWI Animal Health
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