A Complete Vet Appointment On Wheels

Posted: December 3, 2013, 12:15 p.m. EDT


Published:

Dorothy York, DVM, holds a patient in front of her mobile unit.

Photo by Magnum

Modern veterinary practice continues to become more centralized and veterinarians have increasingly more options for deciding where the center of their practice resides. 

Whether you move your practice from room to room or farm to farm, flexibility in workflow and the demand for complete services are undergoing a similar evolution and it is broadening the opportunities for profitable mobile practice.

Your goal for any appointment is as close to complete service as possible.

This can be difficult under any circumstance, but it’s particularly challenging with mobile services. How does one deliver everything the client and patient need from the confines of a vehicle?

Your Goals

For many veterinarians who dream of the freedom and independence of mobile practice, answering this question can be the main obstacle to their working on the road.

Remember, the goal is a complete appointment. You want to be able to diagnose, treat, prescribe, document, charge and collect payment to the fullest extent possible. To do this you will need quality, easy-to-use equipment and a system of time management.

With time and distance you can cover in any one day limited, delivering complete, profitable appointments depends on how effectively you implement two steps:
* Fit more hospital capabilities into your vehicle
* Operate the work flow of your mobile practice more like a brick and mortar full-service hospital.

The choices for smaller, high-quality portable equipment just keep getting better. 

You’ll need diagnostic equipment that’s easily accessible, requires minimal setup and provides diagnostic results quickly. 

Small and lightweight is a given but if it’s imaging, you’ll also need a good display so connecting each of your imaging modalities to a central PACS (picture archival and communications system) on a laptop enables you to view ultrasound, endoscopy, radiographs and other modalities side by side.

When selecting equipment, keep two things in mind: quality and connectivity.

Operate like a full-service clinic
This comes down to time and resource management. Your own time is your most precious resource.
Time
You should spend your day diagnosing, treating and prescribing, or educating and developing client relationships. Outside of those professional services, anything that can be done by someone else returns time to you and makes you more profitable.
Hiring a competent assistant might be one of the best investments you can make for your mobile practice.

The good assistant:
* Does the driving. You’re in the passenger seat, on the laptop completing patient records or on the phone with clients, referral specialists and other resource providers.
* Sets up the appointment, gets the equipment ready, enters client and patient information, manages images and records.
* Assists with the exam and treatment, and provides safe, efficient and reliable restraint, freeing up the owner to communicate with you.
* Completes the appointment, uploads images and records, transfers data to other referral specialists via the Internet, enters charges, prepares the invoice and processes payment.

—For quality, consider the size, speed and diagnostic scope of each component transported within the vehicle.

—For connectivity, consider having control over how and where you connect, disconnect and reconnect each component according to each appointment’s needs.

Diagnostic equipment and computer applications are getting smaller, faster and higher quality. You’ll need your equipment to be all three, and wherever possible each modality should communicate wirelessly and run off rechargeable batteries.

Fortunately these design features are becoming more standard than luxury. Each piece of equipment should be self-contained, and lightweight enough to be easily moved in and out of the vehicle.

Equipment

Like the practice employees they are, each piece of equipment should work independently while at the same time communicating effectively as part of a team.

Connecting equipment to a central PACS or PM (practice management) application is the most significant step in becoming your own practice "hub”; the second is connecting to the outer world via your Internet connection. This facilitates everything from image cloud archival to emailing billing and payment receipts onsite.

System in Place

You need a system for organizing your services so anything that doesn’t fit in the vehicle is provided for another way. What you can’t provide in person can still be made available with the right connections.

Whenever possible, use referral institutions. This applies to anything from professional consultations to prescription drugs and inventory.

A network of other clinics, referral institutions and telemedicine providers extends the reach of your mobile practice while keeping you at the center of the client relationship.

However broad or narrow your network of collaborating providers,  the more relationships you have, the more power you wield over delivering complete services.

With the right connectivity and the data management tools, a wealth of services can be at your fingertips. As an added bonus, when it’s time to take some time off, relationships with other providers might be your best resource for sharing emergency calls.

Today’s full-service mobile practice is largely a combination of choosing the best technology, using the best system of connections and leveraging your available resources.

With a bit of planning and organization, there’s never been a better time to operate a broad practice from a small footprint.

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