The Veterinary Clinic In The Digital World

Some gadgets prove to be quite useful in the veterinary hospital.

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It’s a digital world. Every day, there seems to be some new gadget out there that promises to make your life better. For most of us, it’s overwhelming. 

Which devices are actually useful? Which will end up in next year’s garage sale? Here are my top picks that will save you time and headache, and let you focus on what you need to get done, rather than wrestling with the technology.

Samsung Galaxy Note

These days, tablets are all the rage. When you mention the word “tablet,” most people think of Apple’s iPad, or one of the many Android models that are on the market (Asus Transformer, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.).

Tablets are great, but they tend to be quite expensive—the new iPad ranges from $499 to $829—and they’re just a little too big to be convenient. Just try to fit one in your lab coat pocket. 

Luckily, there’s a new product on the market that brings together the best parts of your smartphone with tablet functionality to create a whole new genre. Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is being called a “Phablet.”
I first experienced this creature at the International CES in Las Vegas back in January 2012 and was instantly impressed. The Note has a 5.3-inch screen, so it’s quite a bit larger than your average phone, but smaller than the iPad’s 9.7-inch display. It’s more than just a “big phone” or a “small tablet.” Samsung has managed to find that sweet spot where power and practicality converge. 

Sure, you get everything you would with your typical current smartphone (3G/4G, wireless, dual cameras). However, the Note adds one more thing that you’ll find extremely useful—the S Pen. At first glance, you may be fearful that we’ve returned to the dreaded stylus. I assure you, this is much better.

The S Pen turns this little machine into a note-taking wonder. Draw, sketch, doodle. Annotate anything and everything. Capture the screen and mark it up. Add notes to pictures and videos. Share everything you create with others.

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In addition to bridging the gap between smartphones and tablets, I see the Note as knocking down the barriers between the digital world and the real world. Digital bits/bytes and ink (OK, it’s digital ink) can finally (easily) come together and sing “Kumbaya” around the campfire. 

Your digital side no longer needs to be so detached, or left on your desk because you don’t want to lug it around. With a price tag around $300, it’s much less daunting to give it a try.

Take it with you into the exam room. See an interesting case? Snap a pic, and jot down some ideas. And then toss the Note back in your pocket when you’re done.


The digital revolution has been truly amazing. Suddenly, many of the things you know and love have been transformed into an electronic format. Pictures, videos, documents and journals are no longer tangible objects that you place on a shelf or in a box. A good portion of your life is now stored as 1s and 0s. If you’re like most people, you never back up your data.

In the physical world, you’d never put your wedding pictures and your tax documents in a flimsy cardboard box in the basement near the washing machine. But for some reason, most people think it’s all right to keep all of their electronic resources on that old PC they bought from Best Buy in 2005.

Carbonite is an amazing service that will help protect you, because honestly we all have more important things to do than worry about backing up files. Sign up for an account. Install the software on your computer. Pick the folders you want to back up. Done!

After an initial sync, which will copy all of your precious data to the Carbonite servers, any files you add in the future will automatically be copied over as well. This service is the epitome of “set it and forget it.” 

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You Said It
In a recent online poll we asked: How often do technical gadgets, such as tablet computers, smartphones and digital cameras, come into play at your practice?

Of those who responded, 62.5 percent said "daily," 21.53 percent said "often," 9.72 percent said "rarely" and 6.25 percent said "never."

Pay one price per year, no matter how much data you’re backing up. Carbonite also has business plans to cover multiple computers. 

What’s even more amazing is that all your backed up files are available from any computer or smartphone. Just log in to the Carbonite website, or install the mobile app, and download any file you need from your backup. Rest assured, your data is safe in the cloud.


Sometimes I miss the days of film cameras. The workflow was quite simple: Buy a roll of film. Take pictures. Have the roll developed and come home with an envelope full of glossy 4”x 6” prints. Repeat until that shoebox is full of photos. Buy a new pair of shoes and start the process over.

Digital cameras complicate matters. Sure they’re convenient, but they introduce new issues you never had with film. Camera memory cards these days can be huge (64GB!), holding tens of thousands of pictures.

With that amount of space and no obligation to have any picture “developed,” it’s common to just snap away until you’ve taken 147 pictures of Timmy learning to ride his bike. This process is repeated until that huge memory card you bought a few months ago is completely full.

And the one thing that’s even more boring than backing up your data is transferring the pictures from your camera’s memory card to your computer. Luckily, there is hope.

Eye-Fi is a wireless-enabled memory card. Put it in your camera like any other memory card; the camera won’t know the difference. But this thing is much smarter than the average memory card. It can wirelessly communicate with your network, your computer, your phone and your tablet. It can even talk to Facebook, Flickr and dozens of other websites. Think of it as Carbonite for your digital camera.

Dr. Malinowski is director of the Information Technology Center at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where he is responsible for researching and implementing technology in the clinic and the classroom.

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