The Growing Role of Technology in a Veterinary Practice
Are you fully embracing the value and profitability that technology can bring to your veterinary practice, both now and into the future?
As a veterinary professional, computerization is a necessary component of your practice. But whether your focus is companion, equine or large animal, are you fully embracing the value of technology? Technological solutions can help increase patient communication, improve diagnostic potential and integrate business functionality. Software integration can help reduce error and labor time, boost productivity and enhance the quality of patient care.
As a veterinarian, it’s imperative to know the current value of your practice to establish a baseline for your future, whether it’s for retirement planning, expansion opportunities or even taking on partners. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association offers three approaches to determine valuation of veterinary practices. The market approach compares similar veterinary practices in your area. The asset approach is based on the value of all practice assets. The income approach considers the cash flow and profitability of the practice.1
Low revenues, high expenses and unproductive hours directly affect profit potential. Leveraging technology to track these areas can significantly increase opportunities to reduce expenses and improve productivity. Which options will work best for your practice needs?
Increase patient communication opportunities
Improving communication between the veterinary practice and patient base provides numerous opportunities for repeat visits. Companion animal offices can benefit from sending appointment reminders for vaccines, seasonal parasite control and grooming appointments, either by postal mail or electronic communication. Integrated software platforms available in the marketplace provide opportunities to sort by appointment dates, condition and season. Many practices further utilize this data to offer seasonal care or yearly packages including preventive care, dental cleaning, emergency visits, and discounts on boarding, grooming, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.
For large animal practices, electronic communication allows veterinarians to maintain contact with clients beyond an annual visit. By tracking herd data, veterinarians can share training opportunities, medication storage and handling requirements, and procedural safeguards. You can distribute new product information, regional infection or infestation concerns, and legislative updates each quarter. Webinars, white papers and quarterly pest reports create additional opportunities that can result in more visits and increased revenue potential.
Improve quality of care
As technological improvements continue to advance the level of care veterinarians are able to provide, affordability and accessibility have allowed more widespread integration into smaller practices. Diagnostic lab equipment has become easier to acquire and maintain in-house, offering more immediate results that can seamlessly integrate into electronic patient charts.
Laparoscopic and laser surgery provide less invasive procedures and shorter recovery time, while diagnostic imaging such as CT scan, ultrasound and MRI allow earlier diagnosis and provide baselines for before and after care.2 Diagnostic imaging offers more options for larger animals, too, including more in-depth looks into the head and digestive tract; potential use in neurologic, orthopedic and soft tissue treatment; and studying heart diseases.3
Since its introduction in the 1980s, strides in 3-D printing to make orthotics and prosthetics, to aid in surgical reconstruction and to make practice models also offer exciting new developments in education and surgery as the technology becomes less expensive.4,5 The practice of pet microchipping is growing, as well. Along with placing the implants, veterinarians record pet registration information in microchip manufacturer databases, which are interconnected through the American Animal Hospital Association’s lookup tool.6
Biotechnology advancements in veterinary care continue to follow trends in human healthcare, including cancer vaccines and stem cell therapy. And as statistics show people are willing to allocate greater amounts of money toward pharmaceuticals and treatments for their pets, new drug interventions also may offer higher profit potential moving forward.
With so many new diagnostic capabilities, veterinary practice software has evolved to integrate with laboratory and diagnostic equipment and to streamline data, lab results and images directly into a patient’s medical record. This data capture can be shared with other veterinary specialists for dual treatments, consultations, training or educational purposes. The use of Internet-based platforms also allows vets to share and access data in a central repository. This level of integration also provides opportunity to connect to mobile devices to allow veterinarians to easily access data for off-site appointments, producer calls or equine visits.
Integrate patient and practice data onto a single platform
By integrating scheduling, charting, blood work, testing, billing and patient reminders into a single platform, veterinary practices can realize significant time and cost savings, increase productivity and improve patient care. For smaller practices with fewer resources, outsourcing certain components such as client communications, payment and collections, data security, inventory management and staff training can reap tremendous benefits. Technological integration streamlines the delivery of information, reduces labor time and chance for human error, and increases a practice’s ability to reclaim payments to enhance efficiency.
Whether you opt to purchase integrative software or decide to outsource some services, there are many ways technology can significantly benefit your veterinary practice:
- Schedule appointments, track client information and show patient history on a single platform
- Integrate patient data and track practice performance
- Measure and monitor business efficiency and profitability
- Capture and store diagnostic images
- Easily search practice records by client, disease state or by other specified criteria
- Track and order retail and drug inventory
- Integrate with lab equipment for seamless result charting
- Access practice data from a mobile device for off-site visits
- Identify the success and response rate of patient reminder efforts with detailed analysis reports
- Review practice analytics for top selling treatments and items to track top clients and patients
- Integrate practice management software to provide a dashboard that identifies a practice's strengths and opportunities for improvement by tracking 40 key performance indicators on a monthly basis, such as customer loyalty, revenue growth and retention
Telemedicine, apps and their changing roles in the industry
Telemedicine is even currently a topic of discussion among the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which has been investigating the role of telemedicine and how it might be used appropriately within the veterinary profession.7
Telemedicine makes professional development and continuing education training more accessible and economical and can be used as a teaching tool for veterinary students. Telemedicine offers immediate access to specialists who can quickly review radiology, pathology slides and other diagnostic data to even more remotely located practices. This faster and increased reach continues to revolutionize the way veterinarians diagnose and treat patients.5
The health sciences and veterinary medical libraries at the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania provide lists of apps organized by use for veterinary students, general veterinary reference, small animal, equine, exotic/wildlife and food animal.8, 9
There are several digital and technological trends that are transforming the veterinary industry:
- The seamless delivery of information between practitioner and patient provides opportunity for repeat contact through appointment reminders, vaccination updates, tracking health conditions and upselling yearly maintenance care.
- As technological improvements continue to advance the level of care, affordability and accessibility have allowed more widespread integration into smaller practices, including diagnostic imaging, biotechnology and 3-D printing.
- The integration of patient and practice data into a single platform provides detailed information on improving employee productivity, streamlines the delivery of information, reduces chance for human error, reduces labor time, and increases a practice’s ability to enhance efficiency and improve patient care.
- Telemedicine and mobile apps continue to make information more accessible in less time and for less money.
To learn more about how technology can benefit your veterinary practice and boost your bottom line, contact Henry Schein Animal Health at (855) SCHEIN1 (724-3461) or henryscheinvet.com.
1How much is your practice worth? CVMA practice value estimate. Osborne D., Can Vet J. 2007 Nov;48(11):1181-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2034432/. Accessed March 11, 2017.
2Improved Technology Is Revolutionizing Equine Diagnostics. Veterinary Practice News, September 2013. Tiffany, Lynn M., 2013.09.30. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/September-2013/Improved-Technology-Is-Revolutionizing-Equine-Diagnostics/. Accessed March 11, 2017.
3New Advances in Technology for Pets. College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, October 01, 2010. http://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/new-advances-in-technology-for-pets. Accessed March 11, 2017.
4Advances in Technology Impact Veterinary Medicine. Advances in Medicine, April 14, 2014. Netherton, Sarah. http://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/advances-technology-impact-veterinary-medicine/. Accessed March 11, 2017.
5Why Enthusiasm is Growing for Emerging Technology. Veterinary Practice News, February 2015. Jergler, Don, 2015.02.17. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/Why-Enthusiasm-Grows-for-Emerging-Technology/. Accessed March 11, 2017.
6Veterinary Services: Industry Report. Industry Intelligence Report by First Research. NAICS CODES: 54194. May 30, 2016.
7American Veterinary Medical Association. http://atwork.avma.org/2017/01/23/telemedicine-just-one-focus-of-2017-avma-house-of-delegates-winter-meeting/. Accessed March 10, 2017.
8Veterinary Medicine Mobile Apps, University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Library. https://hsl.lib.umn.edu/vetmed/help/veterinary-medicine-apps. Accessed March 11, 2017.
9Veterinary Mobile Apps, Health Sciences Mobile Resources, University of Pennsylvania Libraries. http://guides.library.upenn.edu/mobilehealth/vetapps. Accessed March 11, 2017.