Switching up your veterinary practice software

Switching up your veterinary practice software

Changing your practice software can be time-consuming and expensive, but if you find that your current system isn't up to par—it could be worth it.
May 01, 2013

Do you have an outdated software system that isn’t easy to use but aren’t sure how to make it better? According to the dvm360 2013 Change Survey, 65 percent of veterinarians could be talked into changing or would be happy to.

Of course, even when you’re ready to change, overcoming the obstacles to converting records and learning a new system can seem daunting. Here are reasons why your colleagues, and possibly you, don’t want to change:

-Staff training

-Cost of new system

-Every software system has its flaws

-Effort needed to personalize new software

Dr. Carol Sanio recently went through a software conversion at her practice, Minden Animal Hospital in Minden, Ontario. She said the financial cost of switching wasn’t very much, but “timewise it was very expensive and frustrating at times, but a necessary evil.” Hurdles included her staff’s aversion to change and a longer-than-expected conversion, but it was worth it. Sanio and Shawn McVey, owner of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago and a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, have these tips to help you make it over the transition hump:

Sanio: Be prepared

“Look at all your old software, and get rid of clients who aren’t active and medications you no longer use—clean it up. Warn your team members well ahead of time, and make sure they know you’ll have support numbers to call if they have any questions.”

Sanio: Identify problems

“Assign one person to the task of learning the software and check in with them on a daily basis to find out what the problems are and that they’re being addressed, not shoved under the rug. We still have two computers that cannot print certificates of any kind so we hop from one desk to another.”

Sanio: Verify the version

“When we switched, we managed to get a practice software version with pre-existing spelling errors of medical terms. Be sure before accepting it that you don’t get someone else’s version with their customized parts. We had Bichon Frise written as Bison Frise in our files for a while before I caught it. It looks awful on vaccine certificates. It also came with about 50 colors of animals, far too many to search. Get just the basics on the software and add to it yourself.”

Sanio: Don’t wait

“I bought a new clinic—all new staff, a new doctor, and a new way of practicing medicine—and I didn’t want to change everything at once. If I had it to do over again, I would have switched right away instead of waiting. I also hesitated because I thought it was going to be more expensive to switch than it was, and I didn’t have the time to put into personalizing the new system, but some systems are easier to personalize over time rather than all at once.”

McVey: Prepare your clients

“Send out a letter to clients who have appointments the first couple days you launch the new system saying there might be a holdup. Buy trinkets you can give to clients that have to wait extra long because your staff is adjusting to the new technology. Try to schedule fewer appointments than usual, because it will take three times as long to navigate the new software.”

McVey: Contract training

“When you sign the contract with your new software provider, make sure you arrange specific hours for training. Schedule 40 hours for training three months after the software has been installed to work out the bugs your staff has found and personalize the software. If you don’t, the company will still come out but will charge for their services.”

McVey: Pick the right time

“Look at your annual schedule, see when your slow season is, and schedule your software transition for that time.”

McVey: Understand how long a transition will take

“The time between your first thoughts about transitioning to the moment your software is loaded on your computers could be six to 12 months or more. If you pick a popular system, the company could have a backlog of conversions and installations, and you might need to wait even longer. Once the system is installed, it will take 30 to 60 days for your staff to get used to the new system, which could be very frustrating for them.”

Change is scary but sometimes necessary. If you realize you need to switch software, use the tips above and consider what our survey shows your colleagues are looking for to make the transition as smooth as possible.