Cindy Barnes, DVM, CVSMT
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Cindy Barnes, DVM, CVSMT

Co-Founder and CEO

Our team was at Western Veterinary Conference recently, and afterwards I was thinking about the changes our industry has seen. I wanted to share my top three picks for what is trending in the veterinary field. I have spent over two decades working in the field and understand that to truly make an impact in the industry you need to focus on how well you connect with and are able to improve the lives of pets and their people, your team members and the veterinarians who have all dedicated their lives to the human-animal bond. The top three veterinary trends that will help bring change in the industry are: Cloud-Based Veterinary Software Programs, Telehealth and Positive Work Culture. Do you think your practice is on board?

Cloud-Based Veterinary Software Programs

A 2014 survey of independent small animal veterinary practices operating in Massachusetts, revealed that veterinarians in paper record–only practices indicated a reluctance to change, anticipated technological problems, time constraints, and cost were barriers to use. These are all valid concerns for the majority of the PiMS out there. The server-based legacy software programs are costly, require expensive servers to be maintained in the practice (which can crash or be captured for ransom), they require extensive training (which translates to staff downtime and lost revenue), and charge an ongoing fee for support. Additionally, most server-based systems don’t include software upgrades/updates in the cost – that costs extra! This old-school way of maintaining electronic medical records is outdated and obsolete. It has naturally paved the way for cloud-based practice management systems.

Are all software programs created equally? Absolutely not!

Today’s veterinarians want the flexibility of checking their patients’ medical records, and schedule, anywhere, anytime. Practice owners want software that is easy to implement, simple yet, powerful, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. So do all cloud-based systems offer the same thing? No way! A quick search of Capterra, and you’re inundated with multiple options. How do you determine which one will work for you? That depends on your level of patience while considering the following:

  • Do you mind paying a hefty fee for implementation? Data transfer?
  • Can you spare a week or two to train your staff and survive decreased productivity and revenue? Are you worried about how to train new doctors and staff once the trainers are long gone?
  • Do you know how much data you generate and what happens when you exceed your limit?
  • What if your practice grows and you double the number of staff members? Does that mean your costs double too?

If any of these topics make you tilt your head, you’re not alone. I was in the same boat! As a practice owner, I was frustrated with the limitations of my pseudo cloud-based software. I literally had to download a separate software program onto my home computer, just to log into my “cloud-based” practice management system. There was a limit as to how many logins were allowed at any given time, unless you paid for more. And don’t even think about working in the same record as another user, not allowed! Good luck finding that user too. They had opened the record, and now the window they were working in, was hidden under layers and layers of other windows, so no one really knew who had the record open. This is a true story! And it happened daily.

I could go on and on about the frustrations of cloud-based veterinary software programs currently on the market, because I’ve researched them all. After spending $10,000 to have a trainer come to my practice to “teach” us how to use the legacy software that I acquired, and then switching to the clunky and expensive cash register that was sold to me as “cloud-based” software, I was fed up!

Shepherd Veterinary Experience Technology™

Changing the industry for the better.

In January 2016, I founded Shepherd.VET, a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) company designed for veterinarians. We’ve thrown away the old PiMS model, and replaced it with technology that is intuitive and requires virtually no training. Shepherd saves time with templates, treatment plans, and automatic discharge instructions so the entire hospital flow is simplified and improves efficiency. Capturing charges is seamless with the treatment whiteboard and flow sheet feature, if it’s in the medical record, it’s on the invoice, automatically! Shepherd also eliminates errors by automatically calculating drug dosages, based on the doctor’s orders. Finally, software that functions the way a practice flows!

Shepherd Software team at Western Veterinary Conference 2018
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Ready or not, telehealth is taking off. 

What are the benefits of Telehealth in the veterinary practice?

Build better veterinary/client relationships:

  • Allow clients who think they can’t afford vet med, an opportunity to get some advice, perhaps for less money than an office visit. (This will likely turn into an office visit.)
  • Help clients who live in remote locations.
  • Give owners an option when calling ER, via automatic prompt, to:
    1. press #1 for address (assuming ER is always open)
    2. press #2 to speak with a veterinary professional and determine if patient needs to be seen (there will be a charge for this service)
    3. speak with a client service team member (no charge, no medical advice is given, only info)

Improve the quality of veterinary medicine:

  • If an owner is concerned about a particular behavior on a stable patient (i.e. patient is BAR, e/d, normal BM, no vomiting, but is leaking urine or star-gazing) and wants to know if they should bring patient in, the veterinarian could provide an in-depth consultation, question/answer phase, and recommendations. Perhaps the veterinarian may give advice on what to watch for, keep a journal, when to catch urine (first void in morning, etc.), change diet, etc., to make the appointment more efficient and effective. We can charge for this service! Vets need to stop giving their time away for free.

Save time in the practice and makes appointment days more efficient:

  • See more patients in less time.
  • Owners who want a second opinion on their pet’s case, could schedule a telemedicine consultation, that will help to make the appointment more efficient when they actually come in. The vet can then do a quick PE, already knows what lab tests to order, have the test tubes ready to go, and the actual time in the office is 10 minutes or less.

Eliminates unnecessary appointments, yet you’re still getting paid for your time and expertise for consultations:

  • Great for follow up visits, no need to bring the pet into the practice (if appropriate).
  • Great way to pre-screen emergency patient’s in the middle of the night, assuming patient is stable (paid of course) but may not need to be seen at that exact moment. (I don’t need to see a dog who’s been limping for 3 days, at my ER, at 3AM!)
  • Recheck consultations on post-op cases. Vets can speak with owner, see pet via camera on phone or computer, look at incision, observe patient’s attitude, and this prevents pet from coming into hospital (stress) and allows for better post-op recovery.

Reduces auxiliary staffing needs:

  • Low overhead
  • Window for mid-level professions (Veterinary Professional Associate)

Telehealth and the modern veterinary practice

Don’t get left behind! We will dive into the topic of telehealth and the modern veterinary practice, at our next Million Dollar Doctor Workshop.

Sign up on the website to be the first notified when the next workshop date is announced!

Positive Work Culture

There is a lot of discussion in the industry around practice culture. This is a shift away from the “work-life balance” movement that was all the rage, just 10 years ago. What the industry is just now starting to realize, is that the culture at work can either be draining (most of them are) or inspiring! When a practice owner, medical director, or practice manager fosters a positive and supportive culture at work, you don’t leave your shift exhausted and mentally drained. You look forward to going to work, you also inspire your team to greatness, and regardless of how much you work, it finds its balance in life because you find it meaningful.

I believe that a strong team is key to any successful business. This is created through a supportive and positive work culture. After buying a start-up emergency animal hospital in Arizona, I successfully increased revenue by 250%, within two years. This is virtually unheard of in the veterinary industry. This incredible feat was accomplished through superior client service, extensive team education, and practicing best medicine at all times. The practice continues to experience growth over two times the industry norm, and has recently been acquired by a leading veterinary group, Pathway Partners.

If you are interested in learning more about how to create a positive work culture and an engaged team, I recommend reading “No Ego” by Cy Wakeman & “How Doctors Think” by Jerome Groopman. By cultivating personal accountability, you can affect engagement, personal performance, and business results. If people’s engagement is based on external realities, that translates into low accountability engagement tied to the uncontrollable variables in the environment. Dissatisfaction levels could be exaggerated by employees who lack the ability or competency to respond to changing circumstances. Addressing issues tied to external factors is a high risk, resource intensive strategy. Organizations end up addressing feelings rather than business reality. They are trying to treat a symptom without understanding the cause. If you are looking to create a positive work culture within your practice then it is imperative to have a highly accountable and engaged team.

The ideal team for a successful practice

At our Million Dollar Doctor Workshops I discuss how to create a positive work culture and the ideal team to help your practice be successful. Join us and be a leader driving your practice towards success!

Sign up on the website to be the first notified when the next workshop date is announced!

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