We all know the lifeblood of any veterinary practice is the medical team and office staff. But remove the human component and what is the one aspect that enhances patient care and drives continuity and connectivity? The practice management system (PMS) serves that role and grounds the health care team.
How Far Has PMS Come?
It is often said you don’t know where you are going until you know where you have been. The first PMS software was designed to replace paper charts. Over time these systems have added more functionality and require more space on local servers. Now with the advent of cloud-based technology, clinics may be less reliant on local servers. So what are the benefits to using cloud technology?
- No server investment.
- Access system through a web browser.
- Updates are automatic and don’t interfere with the business of the practice.
- Access the system from any device at anytime.
- Virtually unlimited storage space.
What Is the Current State of PMS?
Idexx Cornerstone PMS software runs on a server, but major components are powered by cloud technology. This includes integrated diagnostic results and ordering, diagnostic image viewing (Web PACS) and automated client marketing. Cornerstone is configured so the cloud technology is built-in seamlessly, according to the Westbrook, Maine, company.
Idexx’s latest offering, Neo, was launched at the end of 2015. Neo is a completely cloud-based system with an intuitive user interface and built-in training, both of which address the issue of learning to use new software effectively.
VetBadger, introduced in early 2016, is designed as simplified task-based software.
“It solves the No. 1 dissatisfaction with practice management systems—unnecessary complexity—while also giving team members the confidence of knowing exactly what needs to happen when, plus seamless integration of clinic operations with QuickBooks,” said Alexandra McLaughry, DVM, chief medical officer at the Portland, Ore., company.
The integration empowers clinics in many key ways, VetBadger noted. For example, up-to-the-minute financial data allows a veterinarian and practice manager to quickly answer questions about the clinic’s performance. Referral tracking allows a hospital to evaluate the return on advertising dollars and direct that money to the advertising sources that work best.
VetBadger PMS also includes an email function as part of the medical record. A veterinarian can email a personalized report to a client, and the pet owner can respond directly. All correspondence gets linked to the medical record. Further, clients can opt for text messages to confirm appointments.
Panacea software, from New Zealand-based Panacea, is another recent cloud-based option. Features include automatic completion of medical terminology using terms recognized by the American Animal Hospital Association. And while research shows that 40 percent of incoming phone calls go unanswered, mainly due to the lack of a full-time clinic receptionist, Panacea software allows clients to make appointments online through a self-service portal.
Henry Schein Animal Health of Dublin, Ohio, offers three programs to the small animal practitioner: AVImark, ImproMed Infinity and Advantage+. All the software platforms cover the basic features a clinical veterinarian needs to run a business: appointment calendar, electronic medical records, invoicing and inventory management, for starters.
AVImark and Infinity each integrate with over 50 vendors so the practice can work with preferred providers.
“Each of our solutions offers unique benefits to practices, whether it’s AVImark’s ease of use and great value or ImproMed’s robust reporting and configurability,” said Hallie Detjen, general manager of Henry Schein Animal Health Practice Solutions. “Choosing a software is a very important decision, and we have been helping practices find the best fit for more than 35 years.”
Alpha Software of Burlington, Mass., created Alpha Anywhere for medical teams working at zoos, aquariums and theme parks.
Alpha’s OERCA record-management application provides off-line capability on a smart-phone or tablet during use poolside or off-site at an animal stranding. The program also creates an overall health score for each animal based on a set of weighted parameters. Veterinarians can order an alert to be sent when selected parameters fall within a certain range.
What Will the Future of PMS Bring?
Cloud-based PMS technology will continue to expand, providers noted. Trends are not shaped within the veterinary industry in isolation.
Improvements in mobility and connectivity are seen as the future of any practice management system. Increasing the number of devices that are compatible with the software, from smartphones to tablets, will provide veterinarians with real-time diagnostic test results.
“Predictive analytics is making software smarter,” said Mike Erickson, vice president and general manager of veterinary software at Idexx. “Just like your smartphone can recommend a place to eat, in the future your practice management software will be able to recommend ways to improve compliance or even what tests to consider running for a particular patient.”
Veterinarians focused on improving the bottom line will use cloud-based PMS systems to identify segments of their clientele not fully compliant with preventive care, for example.
As veterinarians look toward the cloud to assist their daily work lives and provide the data needed to improve their business, one area will continue to gain more importance over time, experts said. That is the relationship with clients.
Being able to continually connect with pet owners in the manner they prefer and ground the veterinary clinic as the go-to source for information will ensure continuity of care, empower client loyalty and improve the bottom line.