Does Normalized Data Transform Veterinary Practices? Are Giant Breeds Prone to Hip Dysplasia?

happy veterinarian with dog and computer
Aug 20, 2020 at 5:18 pm
Katie Huneke

Your entire practice is made up of data:

  1. The stuff you do
  2. The stuff you order
  3. The stuff you prescribe
  4. The stuff you sell

A good veterinary software manages all this “stuff” for you. So why isn’t yours?

Practice management software is the backbone of your practice

The issue stems from the fact that most veterinary software products are glorified cash registers. The software doesn’t know when you charge for a drug, and it definitely doesn’t recognize that there are three different entries for that drug. The result is an open ecosystem generating junky data with little control and minimal security. And with freeform data entry as the norm, it only takes a few years before a system is overflowing with junk data that is duplicated, misspelled, or out-of-date.

It’s easy to dismiss data as a minor and inconsequential issue. But like herding cats, if uncontrolled, you’ll find yourself wading through an entire junkyard before you know it.

Scenario 1

Queen Veterinary Clinic is a small animal practice that implements industry-standard software requiring manual data entry.

Dr. Freddie runs the practice and works the floor. Juggling so many responsibilities, he’s often overwhelmed and completely unaware that his data is causing issues.

The exam

During his appointment today, Dr. Freddie prescribes Pluto the shih tzu metronidazole to treat giardia. Dr. Freddie quickly scribbles an abbreviation for metronidazole on the SOAP.

In the back

Brianna the vet tech picks up the sticky note dropped off at her deck and reads the messy note to dispense metronidazole and create an invoice for Pluto the shih tzu. Brianna the vet tech’s to-do list for the day is endless, so she quickly types metro and chooses the first option.

Metronidiazole, 25¢

Front desk

Roger the receptionist has little time to spare as he manages a hectic lobby checking in patients, sorting paperwork, processing payments, and dealing with curbside.

Pluto the shih tzu’s pet parent is visibly irritated about the charge she doesn’t understand. But Roger the receptionist’s only reference is the invoice dropped off at his desk. Roger charges the pet parent the invoice total.

Pluto’s pet parent pays 25¢ a pill.

After hours

Nearing 9 p.m. that evening, Dr. Freddie is on his third hour of transcribing medical records into the system. When he gets to Pluto’s SOAP, he briefly pauses at metronidazole, but decides to avoid guessing the spelling and just creates a new entry to speed things up.

metronitizol, 35¢

Practice management

During his monthly inventory check, Dr. Freddie notices the metronidazole stock is low.

He checks his medical records, but the number of prescriptions doesn’t match. Nor do the payment records (which indicate revenue was lower than expected).

Dr. Freddie postpones investigating the source of inconsistency, orders more metronidazole, and continues his inventory check.

What did we learn from Queen Veterinary Clinic?

A single prescription for one gassy shih tzu generated records using two (incorrect) entries.

Metronidiazole, 25¢

Metronitizol, 35¢

The correct entry (Metronidazole, 30¢) was never used. It’s safe to say that change is difficult to implement.

  • Metronidazole will probably be misspelled next time it’s prescribed.
  • It’s likely that hundreds of other items are misspelled and mispriced.
  • Inventory control is significantly more difficult.
  • There is no tracking every lost charge.
  • Analyzing bad data to adjust procedures is impossible.

So, what’s the solution? Sure, Queen can learn to spell metronidazole. But memorizing the details of every catalog item is an impossible, fruitless, and unnecessary task. The only solution to effective practice management is good data. And for that, we need to change things up.

 A Very Brief Guide to Getting Good Data

  1. Time to spring clean — Part of the issue is adding new data to an existing database that sometimes goes back decades. A deep clean provides a clear picture of active and useful data.
  2. New data structure, who dis? — Organization is key. A normalized global inventory enforces a sophisticated hierarchy where everything is predefined, categorized, and subcategorized, giving you the flexibility to configure your data.
  3. Smart software — Sure, you could clean your data and build a new infrastructure yourself. But that’s a lot of extra work for something without a home. Smart software handles data differently to create a long-term foundation that transforms every workflow to be easier, faster, and more accurate.

Scenario 2

Queen Veterinary Clinic recently followed the Very Brief Guide to Getting Good Data.

The exam

Dr. Freddie prescribes Daisy the dachshund phenylpropanolamine to treat urinary incontinence.

On his tablet, Dr. Freddie fills out the SOAP by searching and selecting phenylpropanolamine from the catalog. He fills out and prints the prescription form, which is automatically recorded in the patient’s record, added to the visit summary, and updated in the invoice with the preset price.

In the back

Brianna the vet tech’s to-do list updates with a new task: dispense phenylpropanolamine for Daisy the dachshund.

She grabs the script from the printer, fills the prescription, leaves it at the front desk for the client to pick up, and marks the prescription as ordered on her tablet.

Front desk

Roger the receptionist helps Daisy the dachshund check out by pushing the invoice to the practice management software’s portable payment device. The client’s processed payment is automatically updated in the system.

After hours

At 9 p.m. that evening, the clinic is empty. Dr. Freddie, Brianna the vet tech, and Roger the receptionist are all relaxing at home.

Practice management

Dr. Freddie does his monthly inventory check and notices they’re low on phenylpropanolamine. The medical and financial records confirm a restock.

happy veterinarian with cat and computer

Good data matters

What does clean data, a normalized database, and innovative software get you?

  • Accurate records
  • Efficient processes
  • Easy inventory management
  • Satisfied clients
  • Better work-life balance for the entire team
  • More time to see more patients

By choosing a platform that prioritizes smart data, you bring your practice into 2020.

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Katie is the VP of Sales at rhapsody. She brings two decades of animal health experience with her, including time as a technician at a well-known veterinary specialty hospital, in sales with VetStreet and Embrace Pet Insurance, and in veterinary recruiting with THRIVE Affordable Vet Care. Katie is passionate about veterinary medicine and the people who keep the industry evolving. Networking is her passion, so if you haven’t met her yet, she likely has plans to introduce herself soon. With an MBA in executive leadership, Katie takes pride in building dynamic teams and helping organizations grow. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three young boys on the beach in Southwest Florida. She also shares her home with two cats, including Stink, her “first-born,” and two dogs.

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