Worried your veterinary practice wont survive a software system switch?

July 12, 2016
Jess Brotherton

Use this rescue checklist from Jess Brotherton, 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year contestant, to weather the scary switch.

What's in the barrel, you ask? Coffee. Lots of strong, black coffee. (Getty Images)

Me: A born and raised Cincinnatian and seasoned practice manager with over 13 years of veterinary experience.

My practice: Care Center, an independently owned referral and emergency veterinary practice with locations in Cincinnati and Dayton.

The crisis: Patient care, client communication and veterinary medicine have evolved so quickly and drastically that we realized the medical record software we'd been using for the past fifteen years could no longer keep up with our growing needs.

The solution: A software system switch. *GULP*

Here's a quick checklist of how we changed software systems (and lived to tell about it):

Survival tip #1: Know your atmospheric pressures

Set your goals. Before diving headfirst into new software, we discussed what we liked about our existing software and what our current system lacked to develop these goals:

  • Allow veterinarians to spend more time with patients, clients and referring veterinarians and less time on medical records.

  • Meet the needs of our referring partners, who needed us to be able to share patient reports and updates in a timely fashion and in a medium other than fax.

Survival tip #2: Use a committee as your compass, and tap into your natural resources

Create your committee. Team members from every department came together to form a committee of registered veterinary technicians, technician assistants, managers, client service representatives, referral coordinators, emergency veterinarians, veterinary specialists and marketing team members.

Test drive the product. This group tried couple software systems we'd heard about through word-of-mouth recommendations and by networking with similar practices.

Choose the best product for your practice. With the committee's feedback, the right software option for us was obvious. We beta-tested the new software within the hospital to make sure we were making the right move, and a few team members even road tripped to a practice similar to Care Center to watch the software in action.

Delegate and conquer the barriers. Our controller/IT aficionado stepped up and worked to build workable templates, import all of our billing items and take care of other behind-the-scenes tasks that needed a point-person. Similarly, our medical director took on the responsibility of streamlining medical records and patient care, and our client services manager ensured that our topnotch client services weren't interrupted.

Survival tip #3: Do practice runs

Train everyone. No exceptions. Care Center has more than 120 employees, and all of them needed to be trained on the basics of the new software. We worked with the software company to have their employees lead multiple training sessions over three days at a nearby hotel conference center. We set up workstations so each and every employee could receive hands-on training, and I attended all sessions to help address questions and concerns.

Survival tip #4: Launch like you mean it

Commit your team. We launched on a Saturday. At both hospitals. For real. Call us gluttons for mass chaos, but we wanted to get the most out of the software team that was present on launch day by having them help us in “real time,” and what could be more “real” than the emergency room on a Saturday? Our specialty staff launched the following Monday. Four software team members and three Care Center committee members were on hand at each location for both launch days.

Stay dedicated to collaboration. The Care Center team's excitement about new features and tools and their commitment to cooperation and collaboration have kept us moving forward. Our committee members remain vital point persons for questions or concerns. They are in the best position to recognize problems and devise solutions, as they use the software the most. 

While we're not experts at the new software yet, we've taken the first giant steps-and survived!

Jess started at Care Center as the front desk manager in 2003 and steadily worked her way up to become the practice manager at Care Center's Dayton location in 2012. She truly enjoys recruiting, establishing and empowering her team and is passionate about communication within Care Center, with its clients and with the referring veterinary community. Jess was honored for 10 years of excellence at Care Center in 2013 and now serves as the practice manager at both locations.