Veterinary Technology Improves Workflow: Get the Most Out of It
Veterinary technology improves workflow in our hospitals every day. Every phase of our clients' visit is affected by our use of technology.
I think we often forget how much the typical veterinary office has transformed. It once relied on reams of paper — from the phone books to the scheduling binders to the medical records to the endless faxes. While the veterinary profession still relies on record-keeping, the methods of record-keeping have changed dramatically. Here are some clinic workflow examples from our practices, and some emerging technology in veterinary medicine that we plan to incorporate.
Client communication is the most critical area where veterinary technology improves workflow. We want our clients to be able to seamlessly learn about us, try us, and trust us. They can learn about our team, our services, and our clients' opinions through our website and our social media offerings. Our website includes real client testimonials from surveys sent out after every appointment — 10 frequently updated reviews are much better than three testimonials posted two years ago. We link our website, social media, portals, and applications to optimize time spent on updating and posting; the ability to use one piece of information across multiple channels saves time and effort.
We offer clients multiple touch points, via our website, client portals, apps, phone, and reminder emails. We use our practice information management system (PIMS) and our applications to make client contact easy, efficient, and routine. Many people prefer the simplicity of electronic communication, and we find our best clients will contact us more often when they can use email or our app. This pays dividends in terms of time management and relationship-building; less time on the phone means more time for the clients in front of us.
Sharing Patient Information
We are starting to provide clients with extensive online health history forms to streamline the actual appointment workflow. Veterinarians can use their time more efficiently when they have a detailed history ahead of the appointment. As an appointment progresses, our PIMS enables us to capture all of the patient and client information in a digital file to create a cohesive and transparent record for that visit. This seamless compilation of medical information makes patient care better. Post-visit, we can share images, results, and records with one click through email, apps, and pet portals. Our clients report even higher levels of satisfaction with our treatment of their pets when they can see the quality of our care in a very concrete way.
The extensive medical technology available to veterinarians, from digital X-ray and ultrasound to in-house CBC, chemistry, and urinalysis, enables us to quickly develop effective treatment plans for our patients. Then, communication technology allows us to share that information immediately with clients. For an anxious client with an ill patient, this immediacy reinforces the bond with the practice, and the transparency of sharing information promotes trust as well as efficient workflow. With a completely digital medical record, we can conduct consultations or refer to a specialist via sharing applications and email, without spending time filling out forms, calling, scanning, copying, or faxing. When we can rapidly design effective treatment plans for our patients — and exceed client expectations — everybody wins.
Streamlining Billing and Treatment Plans
We use our PIMS to provide clear, concise treatment plans and invoices. We use group codes to create baseline treatment plans that can be tailored for a patient. We do not accidentally omit invoice items and charges as often happens with ad hoc estimates, and we use linked codes for line items to help clarify costs. A client invoice is detailed; instead of merely listing a price for a spay, for example, the invoice lists all of the tasks performed for that surgery, from the pre-surgical exam to the surgery itself to pain relief. Visit-tracking technology in the software keeps the work flow organized, and helps eliminate missed charges. Incorporating all of the information into one digital file saves time and paper; everything is immediately visible to all members of the teams throughout the patient's visit, and results in a thoroughly detailed invoice for the client. Clients can appreciate what we actually do every day, and the group codes and visit-tracking technology make it simple.
Another way veterinary technology improves workflow is by managing data. Our PIMS and related applications allow us to quickly sift through and meaningfully analyze tons of data to understand compliance, learn what services and products our clients value, manage our pricing, evaluate our time efficiency, and monitor the financial health of our practices. We can easily measure the effect of programs we develop. For example, we are running a program to improve fecal compliance. We use our PIMS to track our efforts, and then use an application to display the results of those efforts in a graph for the team feedback that lets us fine-tune our plan.
Where We're Headed
Certain trends are emerging in veterinary technology. Communication based on client partnership will be a significant focus. There is still room to improve medical records. Telemedicine is a pivotal part of the future, and we will need to develop concierge models for after-hours care like that of human health care. Clients will demand it, and we need to make it work for us.
Negotiating all these technology changes is challenging — we need to protect our clients' data while continuing to offer the communication and service they want. We want to use technology to establish trust, give clients and patients a voice in their care, and form lifetime bonds.