The Road to Veterinary Practice Success Through Strategic IT Investments

Female veterinarian uses a laptop
Apr 24, 2024 at 1:46 pm

Often, we find ourselves pigeonholing technology into two categories: the shiny, exciting innovations versus the mundane, necessary evils of our daily operations. It can be exhilarating to invest in the previous category; after all, who doesn’t love going to a veterinary conference, demoing a new product, and daydreaming about the ways it will change your hospital’s daily operations? It is just as easy to undervalue the investments—both in upkeep and in management—of the foundational equipment in your practice, from network gear to workstations to servers to cybersecurity protocols.

It’s time to challenge the notion that foundational technology is “just” a cost center for veterinary hospitals. Instead, envision proper IT alignment and investments as part of your hospital’s strategy, capable of reducing unexpected costs and bolstering profits.

In our post-COVID reality, veterinary practices have warmly embraced telemedicine, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence in ways unthought of before the shift in mindsets that the pandemic brought us. This increased dependency on technology calls for strategic decision-making to ensure investments are not only wise but also fruitful.

Managed technology solutions unveiled

At the heart of managed technology solutions lies the concept of proactive management. In the past, “set-it-and-forget-it” approaches were the standard. A veterinary hospital would purchase new gear, and after everything was installed, they would cross their fingers and hope nothing went wrong. If it did—or rather, WHEN it did—they would only find out AFTER the server crashed, or the data was compromised, or the damage was done. When this happened, the clinic had to chew the time and costs associated with last-minute repairs, downtime, and lost business.

Unlike the set-it-and-forget-it approach, managed services ensure that every aspect of your practice’s IT infrastructure is continuously monitored and managed, offering real-time support and preventive maintenance, alerts, and a team of technicians with proper access to fix issues before they cause maximum harm. In veterinary terms, under this model, the time between symptoms presenting and treatment beginning is drastically reduced or even circumvented, minimizing downtime but also ensuring that your practice remains productive and secure.

The idea of cost often comes up as a barrier at this point in the conversation. Are managed solutions more expensive than set-it-and-forget-it models? Sure. With a truly managed environment, there are costs associated with the tools and personnel to monitor and guard your network. But this is a controlled cost, with a fixed predictable monthly charge. In unmanaged environments, costs can yo-yo when issues occur, creating budgeting headaches. Plus, when issues are fixed after they’ve already caused damage, the practice can’t recoup the lost revenue from canceled appointments due to downtime.

Measuring success: Efficiency, morale, and profitability

Success in a veterinary practice can be measured in various ways, including operational efficiency, staff morale, and, ultimately, profitability. Managed IT solutions contribute to a seamless workflow, allowing your team to focus on their core responsibilities without technological hindrances.

We’ve all seen the infamous example of one piece of technology failing and creating a cascade effect through the practice. Imagine a printer goes down at the reception desk, and the CSR has to run to the treatment area to use an alternate printer. While the CSR is away from the desk, a vet tech pauses before doing a blood draw to answer a phone that the CSR couldn’t take. Now the client is waiting and the DVM jumps in to do the blood draw, holding up the time spent reviewing records for the next patient. One printer threw a wrench into everyone’s tasks, the schedule, patient care, and client experiences. This misalignment can, in turn, diminish morale and increase the risk of burnout, directly impacting your practice’s ability to retain and attract top talent.

Morale directly impacts burnout. Did you know that the attributable cost of burnout of veterinarians to the U.S. veterinary industry is between $1 and $2 billion annually in terms of lost revenue? While this isn’t all due to technology woes, successful practices are those that mitigate the impact of poor efficiency on their staff’s morale.

The bottom line: Boosting your practice’s profitability

Efficient practices enjoy reduced overheads, higher patient throughput, and improved service quality, leading to increased revenues and profitability. Strategic IT investments make costs predictable and help practices make informed decisions about capital expenditures and operational savings.

A 2022 AVMA study compared the efficiency of 60 animal hospitals based on a variety of contributing factors. The study found that high-efficiency practices reported up to a 45% higher number of daily appointment slots per FTE veterinarian than moderate-efficiency hospitals and 75% more than low-efficiency hospitals! Through proper investment, workflow, and training, these hospitals were able to see more patients in the same amount of time—thus resulting in higher profits—than their peers.

Cybersecurity: A 2024 perspective

With the rise of sophisticated cyber threats, including ransomware, social engineering, and software vulnerabilities, investing in cybersecurity is non-negotiable. Veterinary practices are not immune to cyberattacks, and vulnerable practices are often used as a gateway to other connected networks, so vigilance is crucial.

Essentials for today’s practices include:

  1. Multilayered cybersecurity protections – Cybersecurity should be like Swiss cheese. Any one tool may have holes, but if you stack enough of them together, the holes get covered up.
  2. Next-gen anti-virus – Behavior-based tools should be the norm, replacing older, less agile, signature-based anti-virus tools.
  3. 24/7 SOC (security operation center) – This involves the use of AI tools and active monitoring to protect against breaches and suspicious behavior within your network around the clock.
  4. Domain-based email – Get rid of your free email, and switch to domain-based email! This allows you to apply protections across all email accounts for your practice, instead of on an inbox-by-inbox basis.
  5. Spam/phishing detection and filtering – Cyber criminals use AI to craft harder-to-detect and more effective social engineering/phishing emails. Fight fire with fire by using sophisticated AI tools to apply protections to your entire email environment.
  6. Full-time backups for servers and locally stored data
  7. MFA (multi-factor authentication)/2FA – While these aren’t foolproof, MFA protections create an extra barrier of defense for your data.
  8. Regularly scheduled patching/monitoring
  9. Strategic technology planning and investments in updating out-of-date equipment

As we navigate the complexities of technology in veterinary practices, it’s clear that strategic IT investments are not just about keeping the lights on—they’re about paving the way for a brighter, more efficient, and more secure future. Let’s embrace technology not as a necessary evil, but as a powerful ally in our quest for excellence.

Questions about your practice’s IT? Reach out to me at [email protected].

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For over a decade, William Lindus has served the veterinary industry through his background in providing operational management solutions to help keep veterinary practices safe and profitable. As the director of operations for I.T. Guru (, he loves helping his clients navigate complex technology decisions and helping them foster a business environment that is secure, stable, and sustainable. William is an active member of VetPartners, a national group of trusted veterinary consultants and advisors, and, as a speaker, William is excited to share his technology best practices through podcasts, webinars, and conference speaking engagements.

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