Finding Software’s Hidden Gems

Paying close attention to the software available in a practice is important in allowing a veterinarian to work as efficiently as possible.

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Veterinarians would pay closer attention during practice management software training if they realized how much revenue they could gain and how much time they would save.

Software companies offer on-site, on-phone and online training with the purchase and installation of software, but many clinic staffers never quite get to the “hidden gems” that can grow  revenue and save time.

“Especially in this economy, utilizing your software to the fullest is the key to helping your practice grow,” says Stephen McAllister, president of McAllister Software Systems of Piedmont, Mo., the company behind AVImark veterinary practice management software.

Information searches, for example, can target patients for specific marketing. “Track who’s coming in regularly and who’s not,” McAllister says. “Or target certain breeds or ages of pets and develop certain programs for groups of clients. That’s captured revenue.”

Some software lets practitioners look at how the clinic discounts services and tracks inventory. Integrating the software to track procedures for surgery, lab and radiography, along with reference labs and specialty hospitals, prevents missed charges.

Software systems present a variety of communications aids, from educational handouts to e-mail reminders to direct mail. Owner compliance translates into increased revenue.

“Through their own software, veterinarians can track any variable in their practice."

~ Stephen McAllister, McAllister Software Systems ~

A clinic’s biggest expense is inventory, McAllister notes.

“If offices don’t manage their inventory through their software, they are wasting a lot of money,” he says. “The software functions let you get your hands around what your inventory is costing you, what vendors are charging, what is floating around and what is walking away.”

On-site and online tutorials, along with telephone sessions and newsletters, offer good insight, but that doesn’t do much good if the clinic doesn’t make learning all the benefits of the software a priority.

“It is a matter of the veterinarian deciding that the staff is going to utilize the software functions and making sure it is done,” McAllister says.

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Added Value, Efficiency

Many believe that paperless or paper-light offices are most efficient. A staff that spends less time maintaining paperwork is free for other duties.

Steve Strittmatter, vice president of software at Eklin Information Systems in Frisco, Texas, notes that several of his company’s VIA veterinary practice management software functions “add value, though they aren’t fully appreciated until a user is more familiar with our system.”

The software uses hospital workflow concepts to improve operating efficiencies, staff communication and patient care. He says the VIA mining tool is sometimes overlooked at first but quickly becomes an important tool to transform the hospital’s data into useful information.

“Users can search across client and patient demographics, medical records, service inventory and financial transactions to generate marketing lists or to extract data to Excel for further analysis,” he says.

Keyword-based searches can find specific words or combination of words in the database, “such as to search all SOAP medical notes for cases involving a cruciate ligament rupture.”

SOAP notes help standardize patient evaluations. The acronym stands for subjective, objective, assessment and plan.

“Many practices don’t understand the full power of this feature until the system has been customized to better fit the practice’s needs,” Strittmayer says.

Practices can create medical note templates for the types of visits they typically encounter to speed data entry and minimize missed charges. Each template may have unique examination parameters and response lists as well as optional treatment plans with billing codes.

“It is common for practices to create dozens of templates for visits such as dental procedures, spays, vaccinations and neurological exams,” he says.

Jackie Herron, marketing director for ImproMed of Oshkosh, Wis., encourages users to learn about her company’s extensive support benefits for its Infinity software.

Among its features is Intelligent Inventory, which helps staff order supplies and equipment on a timely basis. Herron says it reduces errors and eliminates duplicate entries by taking all the order information from the vendor and putting it directly into Infinity. Another highlight is revision history, Herron says, which gives strong legal protection by assuring that medical records are documented and secure.

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Dollars and Cents

Matt Huhn, director of business development for ImproMed, counts the software’s ability to integrate credit card processing as a time- and money-saving bonus.

“Leaving the software where the invoice is recorded and going over to the credit card machine every few minutes all day can add up,” Huhn says. Integration also decreases room for error by leaving one system to input information in another.

“Integration is where everything is going to go,” he says. “All records and images can be handled electronically, from lab results and digital imaging to all financial and accounting records.”

Not all customers utilize a software company’s educational and technical support to the fullest, Herron says. Live chats through ImproMed’s website help staff members who might not have time to enlist technical support for questions that most likely have simple solutions.

Webinars that educate veterinarians and office staff are free and recorded for download, she says. For instance, “Profiting Through Tough Economic Times” is a three-credit CE Webinar that is free to ImproMed partners and $69.99 for non-customers.

Please Come Again

On Hold Advertising of Schererville, Ind., utilizes an office’s management software to mine data and create telephone reminders and invitations, company President Bill Schroeder says. The system also interacts with and records input from clients.

“With a typical yearly examination billing at about $95 to $145, six missed appointments a week add up to a loss of more than $30,000 a year,” Schroeder says.

The On Hold reminder system is simple to implement and maintain, he says. The veterinarian records his voice and clinic name, along with a series of appointment reminders or other messages. Speech recognition technology inserts the pet’s name to make the message personal.

Clients are instructed to “press 1 to confirm, or 2 to reschedule,” Schroeder says.

Data is exported and lists are populated through Excel, which is used by most veterinary practice management software.

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“Through their own software, veterinarians can track any variable in their practice,” he says. “For instance, clients may be invited to make a reservation for an open house, or attend a session on dental health. Messages are tailored to the practice’s needs.”

After a quick set-up, maintenance takes about five minutes a day, Schroeder says.


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