9 apps for on-the-go equine practitioners
Kyle Palmer, CVT
Long-time dvm360 magazine and Firstline contributor Kyle Palmer, CVT, is hospital manager for VCA Salem in Salem, Oregon, as well as a practice management consultant for a number of other hospitals.
Ambulatory practitioners have so much cool tech at their fingertips now, its a shame not to use it. Heres what we use in our practice.
Tech for talking to horse owners
The modern smartphone is your friend. If you're anything like the equine veterinarians at our practice, a typical day includes 20 to 30 phone calls and multiple text messages. Doing that through the texting app that's built into your phone is easier. And most text apps keep a running dialogue of communication with each contact, which is very helpful when you need to call a client again the next day and that post-it note you scribbled a phone number on has fallen under your car seat.
Tech for looking up medicine
Most practices I've been in (or at least the ones with veterinarians over the age of 35) have a fairly large library of expensive textbooks. Because of how expensive they are, and the space they take up, it's just not reasonable to have a set in each practice vehicle, or even to haul them around if you're a solo practitioner. Since every smartphone or tablet can reach the internet (provided you have a service contract), almost anything is available at the touch of a button.
> Plumb's Veterinary Drugs (available in most app stores) is an online version of the book most practitioners can't live without. While it does require a subscription, it's regularly updated.
> The Merck Manual (Professional Version) has the entire contents of the hard-copy book, including common procedures for almost everything.
> On top of the many specific apps available, the iBooks app on an iPhone or iPad, or the Kindle Reader App on others, would allow you to download almost any desired textbook or bring your own resources with you on the road in the form of PDF files.
Tech for scheduling calls
While most clinics invest in some form of practice management software, most systems struggle with constant contact for ambulatory practitioners. Our practice has long used IDEXX Cornerstone, which is great but has a mobile module that must be synced at the end of each day. Unfortunately, equine schedules (all schedules for that matter) tend to evolve throughout each day, and only having whatever schedule you started with isn't always helpful. To solve that problem, we don't use our practice management software for that at all.
We've found great success with an Outlook calendar on a clinic iPad that syncs with doctors' schedule on their smartphones. Changes are virtually instantaneous, and the same information can be accessed on multiple devices. When an urgent appointment request comes in via email after hours, we can do some scheduling from home on our phone. Prior to smartphones, we handed a doctor a schedule in the morning, then changed it several times by phone, requiring the doctor to pull over (if driving), grab a pen and paper and take notes. No more, thanks to the calendar app.
Tech for keeping records
I know some veterinarians travel with an assistant who can operate computerized medical records and create invoices, but I know many equine practitioners don't have that luxury. Voice-to-text apps are a wonderful way to create medical record notes that can be sent to the office or uploaded later in the form of text messages or emails.
There are many options to choose from, but Dragon Dictation is one app that seems to work well. Dictated notes can be sent in any form, making records on the fly very simple. Practitioners also shouldn't overlook their smartphone camera for medical records. Photos of various conditions also translate well to a JPG image that can be uploaded anywhere.
Tech for docs without a software suite
For practitioners without practice management software, the app Saddlite V2 SS offers the whole package. It's a subscription-based system that can be used for all aspects of practice-billing, medical records, prescriptions, etc. It can be used as a stand-alone system with an iPad on the road, or used between an ambulatory iPad and the home office.
For more reproduction-focused practitioners, the app EquiBreedVet Pro offers complete record-keeping and management of reproductive clients and patients. While it's also touted as a helpful app for breeders themselves, the benefits are clear for practitioners-tracking a broodmare's reproductive characteristics and maintaining a complete tracking of estrous cycles.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. If you can imagine it, someone has probably already developed it. (If not, hire some developers and go do it, entrepreneur!) Spend some time browsing your app store today and see how you can improve productivity at your practice.
Kyle Palmer, CVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Oregon.