Are you prepared for the misinformation age?


Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). More than an acronym for computer data-input error, GIGO describes a plethora of practice management challenges every administrator faces. Welcome to abundant misinformation in the information age.

Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). More than an acronym for computer data-input error, GIGO describes a plethora of practice management challenges every administrator faces. Welcome to abundant misinformation in the information age.

Think about all the inputs you receive on a daily, monthly and annually. These inputs originate from inside and outside your practice, from within and outside the veterinary industry.

Within practice walls, you get the usual: employees, partners, sales reps and clients who are quite willing to tell you what they think. Opinions, colored by personal perception, motive and bias, are as varied as horse breeds. Most communications likely are intended as objective assessment, but selective or unwitting omission of certain facts and outright ignorance make even the most honest appraisal a potentially suspect one. We haven't even considered outright lies and falsehoods.

Beyond the practice's boundaries, more information bombards you. As much as they may love you, family members may provide a colored perspective of reality. Despite all good intentions, a spouse or parent likely does not have all the facts and veterinary profession grounding to always give well-founded advice.

My advice: Weigh solicited and unsolicited advice, constructive criticism and other information in light of your personal knowledge and draw on your training as a scientist. Remember veterinary college professors who challenged you to be critical and discerning and to question the validity of purported scientific methods leading to a published report or a presented paper? Test and retest your hypotheses. Carefully consider and balance the information you receive from the wide variety of sources.

Let's bypass the general news media, radio, television and the Internet. Those are easy targets of GIGO commentary. Rather let's focus on veterinary practice management resources. Why is it that veterinarians accept opinions expressed in the veterinary press and on the podium about average transaction charges, gross production per DVM values and the compensation worth of a veterinarian on a production basis? What is the reality of survey results and benchmark statistics?

This is a paradox of significant magnitude. Be suspicious of the validity of even double-blind studies and scientifically-sound research; analytic-minded doctors of veterinary medicine think nothing of basing significant financial and business decisions on the most current articles or seminars that may contain more opinion than fact.

In this author's humble estimation, your best practice management decisions pivot on methodically gathered data from your own practice. Don't curb your personal or practice potential by relying on myths. Instead, maintain a philosophy of solid data collection systems that result in reliable financial information.

In time, trends in the unique financial and transactional information of your practice become the basis of intelligent decisions and strategies rather than the much less-reliable opinions expressed in articles and practice management forums.

Take this article as a challenge for you to hold your employees, advisors, and systems accountable for good information, not "garbage". As a leader in your practice, you have a responsibility to set the tone by being explicit and demanding in your expectations. By doing so, you can change the GIGO acronym to one with much more appeal: Good In, Good Out.

Envision what "Good Out" might mean for your practice:

  • Good (ethical) standards (business, tax, client, patient, employee, operational).
  • Good (reliable) benchmarks of practice and practitioner progress.
  • Good (healthy) financial decisions from equipment purchases to compensation and benefit arrangements.
  • Good (unbiased) feedback to doctors and support staff and partners.
  • Good (accurate) recognition of effort and contribution.
  • Good (appropriate) fee structure for which guilt and apologies are not necessary.
  • Good (consistently applied, state-of-the-art) patient care.
  • Good (timely, appropriate, accurate) client communications.
  • Good (timely, appropriate, accurate) employee performance reviews and recognition.
  • Good (replicable, consistent, strong) internal control and operational systems.
  • Good (attractive, transferable, documented) business methods supporting succession plans.
  • Good (higher, sustainable, supportable, transferable) practice/goodwill value.
  • Good (commensurate with risk, effort, time) return on your investment in practice ownership.

This Good-Out philosophy and vision reinforces practice structure and leadership supporting "Good In" systems. To accomplish the new GIGO paradigm, the hospital director must adopt a practice philosophy of Good In:

  • Good (consistently collected and categorized) data.

  • Good (sustainable, time-saving) organizational systems.

  • Good (timely, accurate) reporting.

  • Good (ongoing, reliable) employee training.

  • Good (accurate) practice benchmarking through report/data interpretation.

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