Don't get tangled in the Web

Don't get tangled in the Web

Jan 01, 2007

YOU THINK THEY'RE WORKING, BUT WHAT ARE THEY REALLY DOING? SURFING, chatting, blogging, shopping, bidding, soliciting, organizing, stealing." Our operations team recently attended this legal seminar about Internet technology and liability. And it really got us thinking about how our team uses the Internet.

It's hard to run a modern practice without using the Internet. You probably tap this tool every day to gather information, communicate with colleagues and clients, and increase productivity. Could your practice live without it?

Tips: Get untangled
Without it, you'd wait longer to get your laboratory results. You couldn't view digitized radiographs or check out competitive Internet pharmacy sites. You wouldn't have such easy internal communication either. Sending e-mail reminders to clients? Forget it. And you couldn't access online banking, payroll reports, controlled substance reporting, product searches, or inventory ordering and control.

In many cases, your practice's computers are online for a good part of the day, just waiting for action. That's the case with our practices, and we were proud and excited about our setup until our operations managers returned from that seminar hosted by the Butzel Long law firm in Detroit, Mich. The benefits of being online were quite obvious to us, but we learned that our heads were buried deep in the sand when it came to understanding the risks associated with being wired.

Ultimately, it's wise to compare the benefits your clinic derives from Internet access to the risks associated with that access. Here are the key issues and some solutions to help minimize your liability.

6 traps to watch for

According to a statistic presented at the seminar, it's not unusual for employees to waste up to two hours per day on the computer. Of course, veterinary teams have their hands on pets a good part of the day. But they also spend a chunk of time on the computer entering transactions, notes and lab work, and perhaps on other non-work-related things.

An Internet abuser can create problems and cause legal issues when he or she uses your technology (yes, it's your problem if it's in your workplace) in nonproductive or illegal ways. These key issues apply most to veterinary practices:

Trade secrets and personal information

Revealing a company's trade secrets is illegal, and one of the quickest and easiest ways for an employee to do this is to e-mail proprietary information, such as client lists or client information. This information can be accessed by hackers or stolen by a disgruntled employee. It's also easy to e-mail personal information about a staff member to other employees or business associates. Or an employee could distribute or post disparaging information about another team member—or the practice.


Do you find it difficult to keep your overall payroll close to 40 percent? Perhaps some of your inefficiency can be blamed on the Internet. Can you tell if your team members are engaging in non-productive, non-work-related activities? The bottom line is that recreational use of the Internet cuts into your team's productivity.

Here are some of the common ways that a team member can waste time on the Internet:

1. Answering or writing personal e-mails.

2. Performing work-related jobs inefficiently because he or she isn't well-trained on navigating the Internet.

3. Using sites not related to his or her job. Keep in mind, recreational use of computers can slow down servers. This is a double whammy. Not only is the user wasting time, now everyone else on the system is wasting time because it's running slowly.

4. Downloading viruses that can be costly in both time lost on the system as well as the cost of repair.

It's one thing if a team member is wasting time while he or she is on the clock, but certain activities go beyond simply wasting time—they may be distasteful or illegal.