Using software for consistent care

Using software for consistent care

Program tracks doctors' adherence to protocols and clients' compliance with recommendations.
Mar 01, 2008

Dr. David McGrath is owner of seven practices, and at one time they used four software programs between them. Now they all use the same system. This has allowed them to try new ideas to boost compliance, which so far have resulted in gross revenue increases of up to 50 percent. Take Dr. McGrath's lessons into account as you evaluate your own practice software—and what it can do for you.

On the same page

Direct reports: Owner Dr. David McGrath (upper left) and hospital ­administrator Andrea Halpern Harding (far right) use reports to judge the effectiveness of compliance efforts at Weston Veterinary Clinic.
The new software was a key part of a compliance program first tested at one hospital then rolled out to the other six. Hospital administrator Andrea Halpern Harding set up the system to track each doctor's activities in the areas of heartworm testing, dispensing of heartworm preventive, dental procedures recommended and performed, senior exams, senior diagnostics, and more. Dr. McGrath let individual hospitals choose their own protocols, but he expected the doctors to follow those protocols. "When the doctors did internal benchmarking, it was based on standards they themselves had set," he says.

The reports are evaluated in different ways. At Natick Animal Clinic in Natick, Mass., the chief of staff reviews performance with associates and looks at improvement over several years. At Weston Veterinary Clinic in Weston, Mass., veterinarians are given the reports to look over themselves. "The way the reports are disseminated is based on the particular workplace culture of each site," Harding says.

Lesson: Work with doctors to establish medical protocols, then use your software to generate reports in those areas. Evaluate doctors' performance over time.

Judging numbers

Taking stock: Many factors, one result
The pilot for the new software-tracking and compliance program at Weston Veterinary Clinic included monthly team meetings to make sure everyone was buying in to the goals. Initially, Dr. McGrath got some pushback—"Veterinarians don't like to be graded on compliance and numbers," he says—but he kept with it. It took a full year for all the practices to get on board. Dr. McGrath made it clear that increasing compliance and improving the numbers wasn't just about finances. "It measured our success as advocates for patients," he says.

But the system needed tweaking. For instance, doctors complained about how the system calculated compliance numbers for senior diagnostics. Some pets didn't get blood work because they needed to be euthanized. Others had already had blood tests recently.

"Doctors saw 30 percent compliance on their reports because of this, but in truth the number was closer to 70 percent," Harding says. "We knew the 30 percent wasn't real, but the veterinarians felt more comfortable seeing 70 percent on their reports."

Lesson: These programs take time to perfect. Communicate regularly and openly with doctors, give it time, and don't give up.