The latest gadgets for your truck (sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)


The digital age is here-and it's mobile.

It has never been easier to find answers to any client question and access any patient medical record anywhere you are. If you're not tracking your calendar on a smartphone, medical cases on a laptop, and directions on a navigation unit, you're wasting precious time. Here are some ways technology goes beyond just the cell phone to encompass every aspect of your job—except actually handling horses:

Goose your laptop with gadgets

The most important gadget in your vehicle is the laptop computer. Your laptop lets you and your assistant pull up all kinds of information at a moment's notice. To get the most out of your laptop, however, you'll need a few things:

  • Laptop mount. Install this on the passenger side to allow easy access to your computer and to keep it from being tossed around on the road.

  • 12-volt to 110-volt power inverter. Hardwire an inverter into your vehicle to provide sufficient power to your laptop and other electronic devices.

  • Wireless access. A mobile broadband card, such as an AirCard, will provide Internet access almost anywhere.

  • Credit card reader. Make it easy for clients to pay at time of service.

If you live in an area with good wireless coverage, consider a netbook instead of a laptop. Netbooks take advantage of programs online, with few applications installed on their small hard drives. These machines are smaller and more affordable than laptops. Many experts think netbooks are poised to replace the traditional software-loaded laptops currently in use.

Mark Baus, DVM

A few words of caution to keep in mind as you build a laptop into your veterinary visits: Those in-car mounts can come between the passenger and the airbag. If you're using the laptop while your assistant drives, be sure it's positioned over the center console. And while we're on the subject, if you travel with an assistant and you're the one driving, you're wasting time. You could be returning phone calls, updating records, and answering e-mail messages while your assistant handles wheel duty.

Get anywhere with a GPS

Remember the good ol' days of the practice Rolodex with directions to each of your clients? Forget that. Put a portable navigation unit in each practice vehicle. Not only will it provide reliable directions, it'll tell you when you'll arrive. FYI: In my experience, factory-installed navigation units are too expensive and often outdated by the time your vehicle rolls off the dealer's lot. Opt for a standalone unit that clips onto the dash instead.

Peek at pros and cons of printers

Considering a printer in your truck? Although a printer can be useful in providing follow-up instructions and invoices to your clients, mobile practitioners should be moving toward a paperless system. Your veterinary software should offer you the ability to e-mail all necessary information to your clients instantly. Although many practitioners have used portable printers successfully, I find them to be difficult to maintain in the vehicle and sometimes too slow to be useful.

Smarten up your phone

If you haven't switched from a cell phone to a smartphone, consider it. The laptop brings you close to useful information on the Internet; the smartphone sticks it right in your pocket. Although I'm guilty of spending a little too much time punching things in on my smartphone in front of my clients, this device lets me conduct business in a much more timely fashion.

Any new gadget you invest in—and they all cost a chunk of change—must serve a greater good. It must enhance service to patients and clients as well as contribute to the bottom line. Now let's all go and join the 21st century.

Mark Baus, DVM, is an equine practitioner in the New York and Connecticut area.

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