Going Paperless in Veterinary Practice

by Hunter Little

Going Paperless!
Going Paperless in a Veterinary Practice!

For nearly the last 30 years, the notion of going paperless has been at the center of an ongoing dialogue on veterinary business innovation and evolution both large and small; however, the paperless dream has been mostly just that: dialogue. It is certainly hard to argue with the stalwart tenure of a veterinary practice management paper-based system. Like an old friend, the paper-based system has been -for the most part- reliable and steadfast, a constant companion that has seen us through the good and bad times. Yet, paper is also cumbersome, time-consuming, and –something no veterinary practice owner wishes to hear – costly. Either because we don’t yet see the benefits of a paperless system or we simply don’t like change (which is entirely possible and not without its merits in the veterinary practice community), going paperless hasn’t quite yet taken the firm hold so many believe it should. But, I’m here to tell you that going paperless is no longer the hassle it once may have appeared to be. Given the ease-of-use of most current veterinary practice paperless platforms, the increasing demand for mobile-friendly businesses, and the numerous veterinary cloud-based software systems now available, it is nearly impossible nowadays to argue for a paper-based system. As with any comparison of this magnitude, there will always be some give and take. Having said that, let’s get perhaps the biggest detractors of going paperless out of the way.

The difficulty of the transition from a paper-based system to a paperless one is one of the few remaining arguments against going paperless still out there, but quite frankly it’s a talking point that loses ground every day. What I am speaking of is the fear many veterinary practice owners have that going paperless – if they haven’t already- will give way to learning curves and breakdowns in workflow, veterinary clients may become upset as changes occur, inefficiencies will ultimately arise and the flow of business and profit margins will be affected. Granted, it is always healthy to have suspicions and keep a keen eye on anything that may change or affect efficiency and productivity. But, it is 2016, not 2006. The reality is, technological literacy (particularly among the younger generations now entering the workforce in droves) is up; computers and operating systems are no longer foreign languages to the average person. Moreover, the number of mobile users is growing, which means the demand for mobile-based platforms is growing. If anything, the average veterinary client is now more readily prepared for a paperless system than they ever were before. Additionally, the average veterinary assistant tasked with learning the paperless system is more than likely already technologically versed to some degree, making that once daunting learning curve far more manageable, if not nearly painless. Of course, any transition is going to bring with it bumps and hiccups, but this notion that a technological transition is nothing but a pitfall simply isn’t the case in a technologically-versed 2016.

Data security, or the notion that files simply aren’t as secure electronically, goes down much the same route as the transition argument. While a veterinary practice paper-based system requires the physical removal of files (thus making them seemingly harder to steal), they can also be subject to physical and thereby permanent damage. More often than not, there are not multiple copies, so the damage is often irreversible. Additionally, there is the longstanding fear of hackers gaining access to sensitive data stored electronically or files being damaged by viruses or malware. But, once again, this is 2016, not 2006. Nowadays, particularly through veterinary practice cloud-based software, data is backed up through multiple systems to multiple locations. This makes data security far more robust, as well as providing multiple copies of files to reduce to potential for data loss.

Although no argument is ever definitively right all of the time, it would seem that those few remaining arguments against going paperless have lost some serious steam. If nothing else, simply consider the fact that technological evolution over time has given way to the paperless system. It is never a good idea to invoke change for the sake of change. This certainly may have been the case 10 or even 5 years ago, when the notion of going paperless was considered more of a revolution. But now, given the current technological climate, going paperless is no longer a daredevil’s endeavor. Going paperless is now an evolutionary process, an opportunity to let your veterinary practice evolve and progress.

As a sort of bonus, here are a few additional ways that going paperless can benefit your business:

  • the access time for veterinary medical records and data, when paperless, is instantaneous
  • veterinary medical records can be edited and updated at any time from anywhere
  • the copying and sharing of data can occur instantly whenever it is needed
  • redundancies and file maintenance, as well as file loss, can be avoided with the help of electronic systems
  • going paperless can vastly reduce the amount of space needed for file and data storage, which can, in turn, save money
  • the legibility and accuracy of files and veterinary medical records improves when digitally stored and maintained
  • the environmental impact seems rather obvious and self-explanatory, but you can learn more here (that may be a little snarky, but I felt that we should focus on the less obvious business benefits first)

EasyDVM Practice Software is a cloud-based veterinary practice management software system. We pride ourselves in offering a system that is user-friendly, easy to learn for new team members, full-featured and elegant in its simplicity. Best of all, all devices, multiple users, all your clients and patients, always affordable.

The Do’s And Don’ts of Writing Veterinary Sympathy Cards

by Hunter Little

Differentiation within the veterinary industry can be seemingly hard to come by. Besides the traditional aesthetic indicators, like a unique interior/exterior design for your practice or a website that really stands out, veterinarians are all looking to provide the same kind of invaluable medical care for pets of all shapes and sizes. But finding a way to really stand out in the industry in an impactful manner without relying purely on those formerly-mentioned aesthetics is easier than you might think.

Veterinary sympathy cards, also known as condolence cards, are a uniquely personal aspect of veterinary customer service that can be easily overlooked but invaluable if done right and respectfully. Not only does it bring comfort to a grieving client, but sympathy cards have the potential to build customer loyalty by showing that your practice cares about the client as a person throughout the arc of veterinary care, even when there may no longer be a pet to care for. By sending a client a sympathy card, you- as a veterinarian- are recognizing and validating the unique and special bond shared between the client and their pet.

As positive and powerful as veterinary sympathy cards can be, there are a few steadfast do’s and don’ts you should be aware of that can make the difference between a personalized and heartfelt note of sympathy and a mechanical, almost-automated response.

The Do’s

  1. Always use the pet’s name.
  2. Be brief. A few meaningful, heartfelt sentences can make a world of difference.
  3. If possible, include a favorite personal memory of the pet. This reinforces the personal nature of the message and lets the client know that you and your staff cared for/remember the pet as a part of the family.
  4. Similarly, try to reference a positive trait about the pet. This, like a personal memory, demonstrates a personal relationship with the pet that a client might relate to.
  5. If possible, include a picture of the pet. This is another special touch that can further personalize the card.
  6. Make sure that each and every vet and staff member signs the sympathy card before it is sent. This is often an overlooked detail that helps a grieving client know that the entire practice shares in their grief and cares deeply about their pet.

The Don’ts

  1. Do not be long winded in your condolences. A grieving client simply wants to be comforted and know that you care.
  2. Never refer to the client’s pet as “your cat”, “your dog”, or “your pet”.
  3. Do your best to avoid using one phrase or message for every card. Sympathy cards can be easily found and purchased online, but try to avoid those that contain the same pre-written response for every card.
  4. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important reminder nevertheless. Do not send the sympathy card attached to any kind of advertisement, invoice, etc. Even though sympathy cards help to build client loyalty, they are not a business opportunity.

If you’re having trouble finding inspiration or the right words to say, here are a few phrasing suggestions that might help:

  • “Best friends come in all breeds. (Pet’s Name) energy lit up any room he/she entered. May (Pet’s Name) memory continue to light up your heart with love and joy during this difficult time.”
  • “We are all so sorry for the loss of your sweet boy/girl, (Pet’s Name). He/she was a beautiful (species) and clearly a much-loved member of your family; we know he/she will be forever missed.”
  • “As you grieve, know that we are remembering you and your family and honoring the memory of (Pet’s Name). Sent with love and remembrance, our hearts go out to you and your family in this time of sorrow.”
  • “Losing a true friend is never easy. (Pet’s name) brought such joy and happiness to our staff, as we know he/she did to your family. Our sincerest condolences are with you and your family.”

What kind of people are you looking for when you hire a veterinary assistant?

by Sam D Meisler DVM

Warren Buffet – CEO of Berkshire-Hathaway and investor who avoided the internet bubble bursting – stated in a lecture to MBA students that the three characteristics that he looked for in people were energy, intellect and integrity. When you look at your top team members, you will probably find that they possess these attributes and it is these attributes that set them off from the others. Energetic people have initiative and find things to do; they are motivated about their job and energize others. Obviously, one has to have the appropriate intellect for the job or success just will not happen. Integrity, however, is the toughest to determine. And what is integrity anyway?

Stephen Covey of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame defines integrity as having that unique combination of character and competency. He illustrates this point by asking would you rather have a competent but greedy surgeon perform a knee surgery on you that you did not need or an honest but incompetent surgeon perform a knee surgery that you did need – or neither.

Integrity implies competency; it implies that one gets the job done and finish tasks, and that one does it well. Someone can ask a person of integrity to do something and not worry about checking up on that person later. But that’s just half the picture. Possessing good character is essential as well. Persons with good character do the “right thing” and are honest, trustworthy and make good choices.

So how does one screen for people with energy, intellect and integrity? Generally, people with energy show it during the interview process. They are interested in what you have to say, excited about the chance to work for you, and have questions. People who are slightly introverted, however, may not show their enthusiasm until they have been on the job for a few weeks. So be careful you don’t exclude a person from your roster just because they were a little shy.

Intellect is easy to screen for. If you are not testing applicants for basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic, then you should be. You can devise your own screening tests or use an IQ testing company like the Wonderlic Corporation . For reading and writing skills, have them read a passage from literature and then ask them to answer a few short answer essay questions on the passage.

Integrity, on the other hand, is the hardest to screen for. Here you can also “outsource” integrity screening to third parties or try to develop some questions of your own to ask an applicant during an interview. Here are some relevant questions:

Tell me about your last boss?

I would strongly urge you to consider another candidate if the person disparages a former employer. This has more to do with how they will act in your hospital and whether they will disrupt the work place by complaining about you without your knowledge. See Stephen Covey’s article on Be Loyal to those Absent. Warning: don’t expect your prospective applicants to behave better than you.

If a client comes in with a very ill pet and can not afford the medication to treat it, do you think that you should give it to them anyway if it means saving the pets life?

There isn’t necessarily a correct answer on this one. You are the owner or manager of the hospital. How do you want them to act? Should they act on their own and give the medications away or should they ask you about it? Consider how many of your employees fit in the same profile where they can’t always afford the medications either. It’s about trade-offs and about moral trade-offs in particular. How the candidate presents the trade-off to you says a lot about how they would behave in the future.

If you saw a fellow employee smoking marijuana outside of work and it was a long enough time from their next shift as to not interfere with work, what would you do?

This gets at the heart of attitudes towards illegal drugs period. Again, the answer depends on you and how you feel. Be careful, if you don’t mind your employees having relaxed attitudes against drugs for recreational use then expect them to have some relaxed attitudes against stealing if they have a good reason to do so (ie like “I couldn’t afford the Heartgard”).

Describe a product you were able to sell in a previous job position that you didn’t believe in yourself. What techniques did you use to overcome this?

This is sort of a trick question. I would be looking for the “deer in the headlights” look. If they can’t come up with anything then that’s good. If they do come up with something, then examine it carefully. Obviously, in order to sell something that they didn’t believe in, they had to make some sort of trade-off (ie dishonesty vs a paycheck, or dishonesty vs feeding my family). This question is from personal experience. I had a receptionist who was my best “seller” of pre-anesthetic bloodwork and pain medications (before we made them both mandatory). When I asked whether she believed in them, she replied, “Heck no. But I can sell anything.” She later became a very disruptive force in the clinic as soon as she no longer believed in me.

These are just some thoughts on the hiring process. Indeed, it can be very tough. Also, please be mindful of staying well within the law with your interview questions.