Successful veterinary practices challenge themselves to grow and identify new
ways to improve the quality of the veterinary healthcare they provide.
In our quest for excellence, there are lessons we can learn from other service
industries that can help us succeed. One important lesson is to continue to
test and adopt new technologies that will free up our staffs to allow them to
spend more time with clients.
It is not unusual to walk into a practice today and find an ultrasound, pulse
oximeter, in-house laboratory and tonopen. Unfortunately, that same practice
will also have computer software first designed in 1985. The hardware has probably
been upgraded several times to make it faster, but the functionality has remained
the same. There is an old saying in the business world that states "you
can be on the right track and still get run over by a faster train!"
Even practices that have state-of-the-art software are barely using it to its
potential. Why? Because most doctors and practice managers are able to calculate
the return on investment for medical instruments and automation, but are mystified
by the potential impact of office automation.
The following are some great ways that contemporary office technology can help
you grow your practice:
1. E-mail reminders: These reminders do not cost you the price of
postcards, printing, sorting and mailing. They can be automated to significantly
reduce labor costs and increase receptionist morale. Most contemporary practice
management software systems support e-mail reminders and are able to calculate
a variety of response statistics quickly and easily. Many veterinarians resisted
sending vaccination reminders in the 1960s claiming they represented unprofessional
"selling" of services. Let's learn from history and recognize that
e-mail reminders are client education tools that support good medicine.
2. Internet: Does your practice have a Web site? If so, what does
it do? Does it educate clients about your healthcare recommendations, introduce
them to your team and provide them with directions to the practice? That is
the basics that most web sites perform. However, you need to allow clients
to download consent forms, request appointments, make boarding reservations,
access secure patient progress reports, view their pet's individual reminders
and see pictures of their pet receiving medical care from your staff.
3. E-mail: This convenient form of communication should be available
to your clients. Many practices support e-mail contact directly from their
Web site, while others handle it separately. Either way, this medium allows
your clients to send you a question when they think of it instead of when
you are open. It also allows the staff to address these questions when it
is convenient for them instead of answering the telephone during peak business
4. Paperless medical records: How much time does your entire staff
waste each day pulling, filing and locating misplaced medical records? Add
to that the amount of time, frustration and lost productivity trying to read
handwriting and you have to stop and wonder why your practice is still chained
to paper medical records. So, what if your doctors can't type, there is handwriting
recognition software and voice recognition software that eliminates the need
to ever be able to type with more than two fingers.
5. Tablet computers: These modern wonders are little computers you
can carry around like a legal pad. They can help enter client information,
run client education videos and automate medical references faster than you
can pull a textbook off the shelf.
6. Voice mail: I have been in almost 400 veterinary practices; every
one of them cited they had communication problems within the practice. Voice
mail is a simple and inexpensive way to dramatically improve the timeliness,
accuracy and completeness of your internal communications not to mention what
it can do for your external communications.
These suggestions represent only a few of the many ways you can put office
technology to work in your practice. Free yourself and your staff of boring
repetitive tasks so they can educate and bond your clients. Office technology,
when employed properly, should free your staff to increase the warm personal
touches that clients crave.
Trust your instincts and experiences as a consumer when you evaluate these
technologies. Leaving a complete voice-mail message for someone in your own
words is good. Pressing 10 buttons before being disconnected from an automated
attendant is bad.