Step up your technology


Don't you want to improve efficiency, communication, and revenue? If you're not using electronic medical records, you're losing out on these opportunities.

I started my practice in 1964—one veterinarian and 1,500 square feet. Forty-two years later, the practice is open 24/7 and employs 19 veterinarians. While many factors contributed to the expansion over the years, the practice really took off when we went paperless in 1995. Today we have about 50 terminals, including one in each exam room.

The writing on the wall

Electronic medical records simplify so many things and allow us to focus on quality veterinary care. My question to any of you who aren't paperless: Why not? There's a good chance you'll make more money from the greater efficiency and you'll be better at capturing charges, particularly in the treatment areas of the hospital.

But why push the envelope? With the status quo, you can keep looking for misplaced or lost records, failing to note phone conversations, writing treatments that never get placed in the records, and straining to read your colleague's handwriting. And you certainly wouldn't be interested in these features:

  • instant access to the patient's entire history when you search by phone number, animal name, or owner name

  • the ability to view all services rendered and charged for in any given visit, including prescriptions and lab tests

  • a check-in sheet that lists all the patient's visits with distinctive titles so you quickly know what went on before

  • a screen that lists all your current patients and a feature that lets you keep the patient file open as long as you have pending activities such as biopsies and phone calls

  • templates for all your procedures that give detailed reports on surgeries or examinations (These are more effective in court than a one-liner that says you neutered Max.)

  • a way to add to the patient's records with a click of the mouse using drop-down lists

  • the ability to write records in the exam room, while you have the client on hand to verify pertinent information

  • a treatment scheduler that automatically updates medical and financial records

  • a way to include lab and biopsy reports in the records.

Get the support you need

Now I hope these features sound appealing enough that you want to give paperless practice a try. But don't do it alone. Take the money you're spending for someone to pull and replace files, and get at least a part-time person who's technically inclined. Recognize this employee as an important part of your team, and pay him or her accordingly. He or she will support your system, for example, setting up automated backups and checking to make sure they occur.

Electronic medical records still take time and effort. Everything worthwhile does. So keep your expectations realistic—but at least set some expectations.

The only thing constant in life is change. I know. We used to wash our gloves and powder and re-autoclave them. On large animals, we had one syringe and usually dull needles. We had no IV catheters or inhalant anesthesia. We didn't even know what a computer was in 1961.

Now most of us have computer systems, so you probably do, too. If you aren't using it to handle your records, get with the program. Change already. After all, you trust computers with another precious part of your business—your financials. Why not with your records?

Dave Roos, DVM

Dr. Dave Roos is owner of Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, Calif. Send questions or comments to

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