Dr. Kerri Marshall, MBA, knew the moment she caught a glimpse of PetWare, the proprietary veterinary software system used by Banfield, the Pet Hospital, that she was a fan. "I saw immediately that you could document everything in a short amount of time," Dr. Marshall says. "You can be consistent and thorough and it doesn't take hours."
Dr. Marshall, now senior director of PetWare, grew up with two veterinarian parents and has seen her share of changes in veterinary medical record-keeping over the years. PetWare, she says, helps Banfield veterinarians avoid the tedium of staying late to finish charts. "It contributes to our doctors' and team members' quality of life," she says.
PetWare was custom-built by Banfield founder Dr. Scott Campbell and his original team of software engineers in partnership with Microsoft in the mid-1980s. It's designed around Banfield's Optimum Wellness Plans and also functions as a client education tool, displaying graphics and pictures for clients in the exam room. "From the start, we included an educational focus in the software," Dr. Marshall says. "Clients are more open to treatment recommendations if they understand what the veterinarian has found during the exam and in diagnostic tests."
Team members also use PetWare. A front desk team member checks the pet in and enters the presenting complaint, the technician collects the history and enters it into the computer, and then the doctor enters his or her final findings. "And even though Banfield practices are 'paperless,' we like to print out our exam reports for our clients and have the doctor write notes on them," Dr. Marshall says. "Then the client can share that with the whole family."
At Banfield's headquarters in Portland, Ore., an IT team of about 100 people provides software development, data warehouse and financial systems support, and hospital tech support. The team also fields requests for changes from doctors—as many as 300 requests come in a year, and there are more than 1,100 in the queue to date, Dr. Marshall says. Improvements have included improved graphics, a more integrated client scheduling tool, a new medical summary report, and a more seamless connection between the client estimate and the medical record. What's coming: the capability to easily share wellness plans and medical records between hospitals. "Right now it's possible but not necessarily quick," Dr. Marshall says.
In addition, the IT team works closely with Banfield's medical standards boards to make sure the diagnostic and treatment protocols built into the software represent the best current standards. And with PetWare contributing to an ever-growing collection of medical data, there's a broad base of evidence on which to base those protocols. "We have 680-plus Banfield hospitals, and they generate a huge amount of data," Dr. Marshall says. "When we are looking to make medical decisions, we can look at 20 million patient visits over the years."
Dr. Marshall says the PetWare system is one reason Banfield is comfortable expanding rapidly. "We know every pet has a complete physical exam," she says. "We know that we can maintain continuity and consistency in our treatment protocols. We know clients are being educated as the doctors walk them through every step screen by screen. This is a constantly improving and evolving system."