Why software fails in veterinary practice: You


Bad data entry is losing you revenue and wrecking patient records in your animal hospital. Here's how to fix it.

“Garbage in, garbage out”-that's what I think every time we update prices in our veterinary practice software. When you start to examine your software's treatment and inventory lists, you may quickly realize there's a lot of junk in the files: outdated entries, wrong fees, wrong codes, etc.

Here's just one hypothetical example of a costly price mistake: Hospital ABC carries three ear infection medications. The pricing protocol requires you to apply a special “P” inventory code to add a $12.50 pharmacy fee for prescription medications. One day, the practice owner notices on an invoice that a particular dermatologic solution seems to be cheaper than she remembers. The solution was invoiced at $28.50 because no P was applied-the cost should be $40.

This three-doctor practice uses approximately five bottles a week-that's 250 per year. One year's loss equals $3,125, which could be $10,000 to $15,000 over the next few years. The mistake could be attributed to a simple oversight or a team member mixing up the reasoning behind the handling fees (medication counted out vs. the pharmacy fee applied to all prescription medications).

Bring order to the chaos with these four steps:

Lock down duties

Designate one team member to be your data entry specialist. In a perfect world, this will be a long-term employee because consistency in this position is important. The data entry specialist needs to understand your philosophy on pricing as well as what treatments and inventory receive codes for pharmacy fees, injection fees, quantity discounts and minimum fees.

Data entry specialists need to be able to make changes to your password-protected price and treatment lists. There's not much risk of embezzlement because this is just one function they have access to and it doesn't really impact actual intake of funds. A manager or practice owner should still spot-check on occasion.

Start doing checks

Your new data entry expert should double-check and verify a few sections of your inventory and treatment list once a week or once a month. Emphasize to your team to be on the lookout for oddities in codes and fees. Your team members are your eyes and ears and often notice any changes or issues.

Cut the fat

The data specialist shouldn't be shy about removing outdated codes or making them obsolete. Remember, though, that removing a code means you can no longer search to see how it was used. The code will usually remain in clients' medical records but won't show up on financial reports anymore.

Lab results can be lost forever when a lab code is removed. At my practices, our procedure is to use preset codes in the veterinary software to render the unused codes obsolete.

Make price updates a time for rechecks

Use the time to do a thorough review of your codes when you update your practice prices.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein is president of the Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group.

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