Trends in practice management systems - Veterinary Practice
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Trends in practice management systems

Ken Coates managing director of Vet-One,discusses future developments.

Predicting the future is a notoriously risky business so reading this again in five years time, it will be interesting to see which of these predictions really do come to pass.

One thing seems to be sure, that the word austerity currently in vogue will mean all businesses must look to deliver more to their clients, perhaps with fewer resources, or risk a nose-dive in their profits.

One piece of good news, however, is that with respect to computer hardware, excellent quality equipment remains a relatively low capital outlay so if you are fortunate enough to be able to choose the hardware you want and can get three independent quotes, you have the advantage straight away.

If the hardware doesn’t involve anything more than simple PCs and printers, the trend for practices to maintain their own hardware is one that is likely to keep rising since maintenance costs on complex IT systems will continue their inexorable rise.

If the cost of a three-year maintenance contract for a PC or printer is comparable to buying a new one, then replacing the PC when it goes wrong and forgetting about paying any maintenance becomes increasingly a viable option.

Regarding the actual PMS software, the major trend over the last few years has been towards integration with Vet XML, Vet Envoy (the veterinary communications system) and Open Systems so that the exchange of information to and from the PMS is easier.

Those practices already using a PMS that is Vet XML compliant, report staff productivity gains using eClaims, eLab Reports and ePractice Benchmarking. This initiative is likely to continue beyond eMicrochip Registration, eProductOrdering, eDietaryAdvice and eCaseReferrals, bringing smarter processes and improved productivity to already hard-pressed staff. What would make your life easier? Tell SPVS and the VetXML consortium.

Additional insurance companies, labs, benchmarking companies, microchip registration companies, etc., are likely to come on board and use these open standards that already work with many PMS systems, simply due to pressure from the veterinary profession. If they do, they will have a broad base of PMS systems which they can instantly communicate with. If they don’t, their services are less likely to be used by vets.

An easy choice

If two labs did the same test to the same quality for roughly the same price but one returned the result directly into your PMS animal clinical history and one sent it back by fax or e-mail requiring an additional job to scan, retype or copy/paste into the records, the choice isn’t difficult which to use.

Sadly, not all practices can benefit from VetXML and VetEnvoy as their PMS may never support these initiatives. This will force an upgrade to a newer system if VetXML compliance is not supported or planned in the old one. We’ll see an increased number of practices needing to change their PMS or simply risk falling behind the competition.

It may not be all bad news, however, because there are cost savings to be had by changing systems if you look hard enough. Older systems, by their nature, are more expensive to maintain and you could find savings in lower-cost hardware and more competitively priced but high functionality PMS software. Reigning in the IT budget to keep the staff/client contact high may be a sensible course of action in the coming years.

Finally, we could see an increase in legislation driving the functionality of the PMS. Current batch traceability rules may be strengthened and broached product compliance more rigorously observed, both of which directly reflect the functionality needed in the PMS. For those PMS whose development is stagnant or frozen, their replacement could become a business necessity.

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