Even though most practice management software features high-level configuration, clinics should demand even more from the programs they use.
Practitioners should think about their short-, mid- and long-term goals when considering investing in a practice management system, says Heather Ansell, senior director of technology sales for Henry Schein Veterinary Solutions.
“For example, a practice owner who is interested in expanding to multiple locations and wants to have control from a centralized location will keep that in mind when assessing which practice management software solution best fits his or her needs,” Ansell explains.
Those practices that already have a good system in place should ensure they are using the latest version of the software platform.
“If not, you may be missing out on new features that address your needs,” Ansell says. “Make a list of your needs and contact your software company to confirm what the latest version offers. Upgrades are much less disruptive than changing software.”
Sagi Solomon, CEO and founder of Vetter Software, sees a lot of interest in solutions that empower client acquisition and engagement, including online appointment booking solutions and mobile apps for clients.
“We believe the apps are still early in their development, but some are showing real promise, particularly with respect to enabling commerce and appointment booking,” Solomon says.
Also, an increasing number of customers are leaning on data to improve their businesses, he adds.
“The data they are using includes information about their own practices, but also benchmarking data to help assess performance of the business within a relevant group,” he notes. “If these trends continue, which I believe they will, open exchange of data will become key to ensuring the success of the software company. This means companies offering application programming interfaces (APIs) that are open to integrating with other providers are more likely to be able to offer a suite of services for the practitioner and his or her clients.”
Four key points before purchasing
Practices increasingly want the flexibility to offer new services and streamline key tasks, says Rachel Houlihan, director of IDEXX’s veterinary software and services. However, she adds that no matter the complexity of offerings, those who make the purchasing decision should keep important staples in mind:
- Security — Data is an important asset that must be protected against accidents, human error, or malicious attacks. Choose a software provider that can implement a strategy to secure your network, protect software and operating systems, safeguard and recover data, and educate your team on security best practices.
- Integration — Maintaining the integrity of patient and client data is easier with secure two-way integration between the various software and services operating in the practice. Ask vendors if their software integrates with the products and services you use.
- Support and training — Make sure the software is backed by live training and dependable support to quickly solve problems.
- Reputation — Software should improve the longer you own it (i.e. acquiring new capabilities and performance improvements via regular upgrades).
Look at the track record
Selecting a software platform means “signing up for an ongoing relationship” with the software provider, says Ali Hashmat, CEO of Cure Partners, which recently introduced NaVetor, a new cloud software platform for veterinary practices offered in partnership with Patterson Veterinary.
According to Hashmat, practitioners should research their options and ask questions such as: Does the company stand behind the product? Does it offer strong support? Does it continuously invest in software advancements to stay current?
“Software that tracks key performance indicators (KPIs) is becoming a valuable tool for veterinary practices to help them maintain the health and profitability of their practice,” he says. “The best software platforms are tools practices can rely on, not only for keeping accurate patient and financial records, but also for providing the right information and analytics to manage a successful veterinary business.”
He says that staying on top of software advances and continuously investing in the software platform is also important.
“Busy veterinary practices rely on technology to make life easier and less stressful,” Hashmat explains. “Smart workflows, time-saving features, and strong data analytics decrease tension and let everyone focus on what’s really important—clients and patients.”
Is the cloud right for you?
“Assess your ability to support on-site IT infrastructure, as well as your mobility needs,” Ansell says. “On-site and cloud solutions each have their advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to balance them against your practice’s needs.”
Eric Bregman, VMD, CEO of VetOfficeSuite.com, also encourages would-be buyers to consider cloud capabilities.
“When considering new software, owners should decide whether they want a cloud-based system or an installed system with server and work station requirements,” Dr. Bregman said. “Longevity of the company, cost, and customer service would also be key items to consider.”