How a rubber chicken helped us go paperless

November 17, 2016
Judi Bailey, CVPM

Judi Bailey, CVPM, is the hospital administrator at Loving Hands Animal Clinic and Pet Resort in Alpharetta, Georgia, and the founder and president of the Georgia Veterinary Managers Association. She is also the 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year.

One of the weirdest communication tools around turned us into a paperlessor at least less-paperveterinary practice. Here's how to do your homework and get a worried team over the hump. The rubber chicken helps.

This is the chicken. When you hold it, you tell us why paperless practice scares you. Deep breaths. You can do this. Take the chicken ... ( I first came on as hospital administrator at my current practice, my practice owner had been trying to go paperless for five years and just never had the right infrastructure and team buy-in to do it. Here's what we did and you can too:


1. Calculate your costs

Look at the paper cost savings. We save upwards of $600 per month when we gave up our elaborate folder system and custom pages that had to be printed specially for us.


Then try clocking your team members' inefficiency hunting paper records. (One of mine took 22 minutes to find a record for a client who walked in off the street a few days after her last appointment. My team member had to look in 15 "correct" spots to find it.)


2. Price and compare the software

Our original software provider was going to charge us more than $14,000 to convert to paperless. We found a provider that didn't charge us for converting to paperless, and we pay $100 a month for ongoing technical support. (To be fair, I had been working with this smaller software company for years-remember back in the days of DOS?-and they were happy to make changes for us to get it right.)


3. Spend time making your case to management and the team, and spend time getting them over hurdles

Even my practice owner was worried, as she wasn't the fastest typist. Today, she uses dictation software and she can knock out 20 visits for records in 10 minutes. Still, we talked a little about it at every staff meeting over the six-month conversion process, and we even had a "pass the chicken" meeting (my practice owner's idea), where we passed a rubber chicken around the room and voiced our worries and fears. Turns out, the team was hostile, but their biggest worry was that I wouldn't stay to see it through and they'd be left with a new software suite and no one left to help them learn it.


4. Set realistic and forgiving expectations

I gave us six months and planned the process to take advantage of our slowest months of the year. I now give doctors two days to get any hand-written records into the system. My young ones don't use dictation software very often, but my practice owner does it in her office or at home (and fast, remember?).


5. Pick your battles

You know what I wanted for paperless practice? A digital whiteboard. We have the capacity to do rounds on the computer without little boxes on sheets. But you need to pick your battles. The digital whiteboard in place of the trusted marker whiteboard was even beyond my millennials' comfort zone for now.


6. Enjoy the change

We still laugh that we have too much paper, as we're chartless but not paperless (travel sheets, people). But now we never lose a record with our 21 computers and three scanners, and we can read every doctor's notes all the time.


So, do your homework, get out the rubber chicken, and get rid of that paper, people.


Judi Bailey, CVPM, is hospital administrator at Loving Hands Animal Clinic and Pet Resort in Alpharetta, Georgia, and founder and president of the Georgia Veterinary Managers Association. She is also one of nine finalists for the 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year announced at CVC Kansas City in August. Next up, the big winner will be announced the evening of Friday, Dec. 9, at CVC San Diego.