A giant step towards the paperless office - Veterinary Practice
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A giant step towards the paperless office

Mike Fletcher explains how a new system will save both paper and time

Since the introduction of practice management systems (PMS) over the last couple of decades, practices have become more efficient in the way they work. From more effective use of time through better time management to computerised accounting that ensures billing is never missed for work carried out, the benefits have been significant.

In broad terms, practice management systems have helped practices reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve customer service. The good news is that there are more benefits on the way.

If you consider the information held in your PMS, until recently it could only be readily accessed by people within the practice group.

Effectively this information existed as an island and not shared easily with other practices and external organisations like insurers.

This means that when you dealt with these other parties, the information often had to be provided nonelectronically (i.e. using paper/fax), thereby wasting time and leading to the chances of a mistake being made. This is now beginning to change.

Common data format and dedicated hub

There are two problems that need to be solved to facilitate this. Firstly, the format of the information or data has historically been different for each and every PMS and other service providers. This means that what made sense to one was complete gobbledegook for another.

Vet-XML is an industry-standard computer format that provides a common syntax and structure in which veterinaryrelated data can be represented. This means that any other computer system that receives the data can quickly read and fully understand them.

SPVS has set up the Vet-XML Consortium to act as the guardian of the format and ensure it maintains independence. More details can be found at www.vetxml.org. The second problem that needs to be addressed is how the common data represented by Vet-XML can be easily and securely delivered. Considering the large number of channels that may be needed, effectively dealing with these issues is important.

Ideally, what is required is a common communication platform (i.e. hub). This has now been overcome by the creation of the UK’s first dedicated hub for the veterinary profession – Vet Envoy (www.vetenvoy.com) – which is supported by SPVS.

Paperless insurance claims (eClaims)

By using the Vet Envoy hub together with Vet-XML, practices are now able to readily and securely exchange information with other practices and other veterinary service providers. This will lead to even greater practice efficiencies, freeing up you and your staff as well as reducing costs.

One of the first applications of the hub and Vet-XML that is already being used commercially is electronic insurance claims – eClaims. This service, which cuts out the tedious paperwork and hassle involved with making a claim, is already providing significant cost and time savings.

Andrew Turkington, a partner at the Drove Veterinary Hospital in Swindon, agrees: “We send approximately 100 claims a month, which with a manual system was taking up to 50 hours of valuable staff time. Now with eClaims we do not have to bother with paper copies as everything is handled electronically.

“I estimate that we are now saving 20 hours a month by using eClaims. Not only has it saved the practice a great deal of staff time and hassle, it’s also reduced the time claims are settled.”

Indeed, the average settlement time among all the practices now already using the eClaims service is between two and three days. A short online demo of eClaims can be viewed at www.vetenvoy.com/demo.htm.

Automated lab reports

Another application is the lab report service. This facilitates the delivery of reports electronically in a standard format from lab company systems and automatically enters the information into the relevant client record in the practice’s system.

In addition, it also enables the practice to electronically place a service request on the lab company directly from within the PMS to notify them that the sample is on its way.

This service is now being trialled and will be available more widely soon. Eventually it will be possible for practice staff to look up a list of services that a lab company provides directly from their PMS, choose the one they want and order it with the click of a mouse.

Other services in trial or in the pipeline

Other areas include:

  • Benchmark data delivery. In early trials, this is already allowing a practice to send benchmark data electronically and automatically from their PMS to a benchmarking company.
  • Animal record transfer. Once available, this will enable all the information held in your PMS to be readily transferred electronically to another practice’s PMS for referral or OOH emergency work.
  • Dietary advice. To access dietary advice from certain suppliers, currently your staff have to exit your PMS, enter the supplier’s website and then re-key clients’ information. Soon it will be possible to readily send all the relevant data to the website electronically straight from the PMS. This will make the service much quicker and more accurate, as no re-typing will be required.
  • Microchip registration. This will enable the client’s registration information, as already held in your PMS, to be sent electronically and quickly to the microchip company. This will provide instantaneous cover and, again, remove the unnecessary paperwork.

These and the other services as outlined in this article will help to significantly reduce the time spent on administration as well as the amount of paper being used within the practice, which will be good for both profit and the environment.

When will my PMS have these services?

To find out which services are already available and which PMS vendors and other service providers are already supporting them, please visit www.vetxml.org.

Alternatively, visit your vendor and the service providers at this month’s BSAVA congress to find out the very latest.

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