Knowledge Base in a Veterinary Practice

Nov 11, 2020 at 12:13 pm
Ivan Zakharenkov, DVM, BSc

Isn’t it frustrating when your employees don’t follow procedures and instructions? Even when they receive the best training, small details can fall through the cracks, which lead to inconsistencies, such as miscommunications. Even worse, when key personnel who are responsible for training and oversight leave the practice, it can cause some major gaps in “institutional memory.” 

Compiling, updating, and maintaining a centralized body of skills, experiences, capabilities, and expert insights is a challenging but necessary duty. Managing the information, storing it in one place, and enabling any of your staff to access it at any time, can become a game-changer. Many practice owners are not familiar with the term knowledge base (KB), and we want to shine a light on this topic. Find out what your knowledge base is, and see whether your standard operating procedures (SOPs) belong in the KB and comply with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines. 

What is a knowledge base? 

A knowledge base suggests software solutions that can engage staff members and help them quickly access the information at their own pace and on any device. In general, it is a repository for how-to and troubleshooting information. The KB should be built according to the knowledge structure and be managed based on the practice’s knowledge management strategy. 

The knowledge management (KM) process helps an organization optimize and preserve its institutional memory. Creating and using information is not enough; the practice must apply this knowledge in order to operate successfully. Otherwise, it is meaningless.

What is knowledge base?

KM strategy focuses on the processes that the clinic uses to manage its repository of information—training, operating procedures, personnel, and technology. These principles will guide you in creating a KB that will withstand personnel changes, regulatory updates, and revised clinical protocols, and will allow your personnel to consistently implement best practices.

How practices benefit from a KB 

Implementing a knowledge base in the clinic improves and offers consistency of communication across the organization. This approach leads to better performance of the clinic, minimizes costs, and can increase revenue. Here are some specific benefits that the clinic gets from a KB: 

  • Consistent information across the organization — Having a KB allows all members of the organization access to consistent information. For instance, if an employee has a question and asks the head technician and the clinic manager about company policy, the employee can receive information that is not entirely accurate or inconsistent. 
  • Accelerated onboarding — A KB makes the training process more congenial and consistent, which lowers onboarding costs and increases scalability. As new employees have a centralized resource for comprehensive information, it ensures a quicker and more effective adaptation to the clinic’s processes and minimizes mistakes. 
  • Improved client experiences — For example, a clinic may have guidelines on how to greet each client. If each employee across an organization can access the information at any time, the greeting will most likely be performed regularly. This small adjustment improves the client’s experience and elevates their perception of quality of care. Additionally, clear guidelines help to answer customers’ queries and solve their issues in a timely manner without jeopardizing the clinic’s reputation. 
  • Establishes positive clinical culture — By having a centralized source of information, employees feel supported and have an avenue to get answers quickly. Without it, messages may get lost, or questions may need to pass through many hands to get a final answer. With a KB in place, the employee with the question has immediate access to the information they seek.
  • Knowledge becomes part of the clinic’s institutional memory — With critical information stored in a central location, the practice is less dependent on key or long-term employees. The acquired information is stored in a special system that every employee can use, so if somebody leaves the clinic, it is not a crisis situation. 

What is AAHA and what does it have to do with the KB? 

The American Animal Hospital Association accredits veterinary hospitals across North America and aims to provide the most accurate information on clinically relevant topics. Many practice owners are not familiar with the association and its guidelines and presently only 15% of veterinary hospitals are AAHA-accredited. AAHA promotes the development of evidence-based protocols in practice, which improves efficiency and communication in the clinical setting. AAHA strives to benefit the entire veterinary profession and pet owners by creating interactive guidance, which can significantly bolster your clinic’s performance. 

There is a common misconception that there are 900 mandatory AAHA standards. However, this is not accurate. AAHA has two categories of standards: mandatory and points-based. Mandatory standards are the foundation of accreditation. They comprise only 5% of all the standards, which means there are approximately 50 of them—most of which your staff performs every day. The points-based standards mean that a hospital earns points to receive appropriate accreditation. Here are the primary areas in which your clinic can receive those points: 

AAHA's points-based standards

Also, standard operating procedures are an efficient way to disseminate consistent information across the clinic. SOPs can act as a reliable tool that helps to address system errors quickly. As every clinic is unique, each should create its own procedures. Often, the clinic’s SOPs need to reflect AAHA protocols. 

Efficiently established processes in the workplace can make everything easier for you and your team. Your practice benefits from consistent and reliable information, your revenue increases, and your reputation improves. 


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Dr. Ivan "Zak" Zakharenkov is a veterinarian with 12 years of experience in emergency medicine. After graduating, he worked in 35 veterinary hospitals across Canada, where he was inspired to create Smart Flow, a first-in-the-industry workflow optimization system. Smart Flow was subsequently acquired by IDEXX Laboratories, where he became general manager of the software division. After consulting more than 500 practices worldwide on workflow optimization, he cofounded Veterinary Integration Solutions to create a more cohesive, unified consolidator operating platform and help veterinary consolidators grow a sustainable business using data analytics and a lean operating framework.

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