Veterinary Practice Software & Technology – Part 1
Travis Meredith, DVM, MBA, Diplomate ACT
Practice information management systems are integral to managing veterinary practices. Part 1 of this 2-part series highlights the technical aspects, system hallmarks, coming attractions, and cost of 3 of the leading PIMS used by practices today.
This year’s Practice Building column has been focused on building today’s veterinary practice. The series is dedicated to providing readers insight into issues and resources that support long-term practice growth. Previous articles have focused on areas of investment, lending and capital access, marketing and client communication tools, and service expansion. Read these articles at tvpjournal.com.
This article and the next (January/February 2015 issue) will discuss innovations and issues related to one of the key components of every veterinary practice—the practice management system—including:
- Popular practice information management systems in the marketplace
- Distinguishing features of each system
- Recent or upcoming innovations and improvements
- Common questions about current systems and migration to new technology.
The Practice Information Management System (PIMS) is the heartbeat of a practice. Each medical action we take with our patients and each unique client interaction are tracked by this regulator of our small business.
- Keeps the day organized by managing inflow and outflow of patients
- Maintains the repository of contact information—the major connection to clients
- Serves as the primary transaction log, recording financial performance
- Provides comprehensive medical history for every patient in many practices
- Is the largest database of unique information to each practice.
PIMS IN PRACTICE
Every practice is an individual and utilizes its PIMS differently. While some use the PIMS exclusively to record customer transactions, others have used PIMS to become completely paperless. The systems presented in this column each provide a unique set of features for solving the most common operational needs of veterinary practices (Table 1).
|Table 1. Common Operational Needs of Veterinary Practices|
|PATIENT & CLIENT
Patient medical records
Financial transactions/client billing Business analysis
Outside service integration
ImproMed (impromed.com), also owned by Henry Schein Animal Health, offers three platforms of practice management systems:
- Infinity—the most widely known ImproMed system in the companion animal marketplace
- Advantage+—a relatively new cost effective offering
- Triple Crown (and Advantage+)—offers solutions for practices serving equine patients.
All ImproMed products are Windows-based on premise (on-site server) systems. While the software can be purchased alone, the company highly recommends purchasing an integrated software/hardware system based on the needs of the individual practice.
For the technology enthusiast, ImproMed will design systems that integrate new technologies including, but not limited to, Surface Pro tablets, solid-state hard drives, and barcode scanners. In addition, ImproMed also offers iOS and Android compatible mobile solutions for accessing the PIMS offsite. More information about technical requirements can be found at impromed.com/infinity-hardware-products.
Infinity is a popular platform for practices looking to move to a paperless medical records system and/or desiring personalized/customized workflows. Following are some of the most popular features:
- Mobile access: Infinity offers a mobile solution that operates without an Internet connection; then syncs records back to the practice when a connection is available. For mobile practices or practices that offer house calls, this feature is an asset in maintaining continuity of medical records.
- Apps: Infinity’s mobile apps allow veterinarians to manage cases and the practice from their phones. Current apps include:
- EMR: Infinity allows a practice to design a personalized workflow utilizing flexible EMR entry features. One attractive feature is the ability to enter a medical record and have the corresponding costs of services/products flow automatically to the invoice, avoiding missed charges. ImproMed also integrates with more than 50 vendors and service providers in laboratory, diagnostic equipment, and client services.
- Simultaneous record access: With this feature, multiple users can view, access, and enter information into the same account at the same time. For example, a doctor can enter data in the medical record while a receptionist adds items to the invoice and a technician enters a prescription. This feature eliminates the need to wait for coworkers to complete their tasks before accessing the account.
In the next six months, ImproMed will be launching several new software features as well as products and services that expand mobile capabilities.
Major enhancements to current and brand new modules will be released and include:
- Treatment plans that offer a true whiteboard view, which facilitates “one view” of the status and location of all patients in the hospital
- Episodes-of-Care Module that is targeted toward assistance with updating never-ending piles of medical records. This new module will keep all active cases in one spot until a clinician has completed his or her entries, and enables better tracking of patient visits and organization, with an integrated to-do list.
Because Infinity is positioned as a customized PIMS solution, the required investment varies significantly depending on many factors, including practice size, required number of seats or workstations, and hardware needs.
ClienTrax (clientraxtechnology.com) is an independently owned technology company that offers three versions of their practice management system—ClienTrax Basic, Standard, and Premium. The platform is known as a highly user-friendly system that provides the necessary core components to manage a practice effectively.
ClienTrax is one of the few PIMS systems that operates in both Windows and Mac environments. The system is supported in Windows operating systems as far back as Windows XP and utilizes an onsite server for data storage and system management.
The company sells both individual software packages and complete systems, including hardware and imaging equipment. More information on technical requirements can be found at clientraxtechnology.com/support.html.
ClienTrax is known for integrating practical technology features in a cost effective PIMS. Available features vary between versions, from a core product in the Basic version to an integrated general ledger accounting system in the Premium version. Some of the more popular features include:
- Integrated EMR: ClienTrax is positioned as a solution for practices seeking to become paperless. A practice can completely customize their forms, records, and communication or choose from a library of available templates. System integrations include:
- Importation of laboratory and imaging findings into the medical record
- Exportation of daily total to accounting software through QuickBooks module.
- AppointMaster: This client communication platform improves the client experience and strengthens the relationship between the client and practice by offering several features, including real-time appointment scheduling through the practice’s website (which automatically populates the appointment management system), two-way text messaging features, and multiple reminder and marketing tools.
- Integrated wellness plans: ClienTrax offers an integrated wellness plan solution, which allows practices to implement as many (or as few) offerings as desired based on their individual needs. The system utilizes inventory and invoicing features to calculate the fees of services or items in the plans; then divides that number by 12 to establish monthly billing protocols. Additional features allow the practice to track the effectiveness of individual wellness programs and incorporate a system for accurately compensating associates for these plans.
- Electronic dental charting: The ClienTrax #2 DR dental sensor enables digital dental radiographs to be directly imported into the dental chart in the patient record without the need for third party software. This feature integrates with most imaging units, including those manufactured by Progeny, Schick, EVA, ScanX, and Sopix.
ClienTrax continues to add enhancements that utilize digital technologies to improve practice operations.
- Electronic signature capture will allow a practice to capture a client’s signature without the need for paper forms. Anytime a signature is required (eg, patient authorizations, estimate confirmations, payment processing), it can be captured on a tablet or electronic signature pad and uploaded into the patient’s medical record.
- Cloud storage from ClienTrax offers data backup and storage to protect business data and provide additional digital data storage. The platform utilizes automatic cloud storage, supported by the company’s technical team, and enables a practice to access sufficient backup technology without purchasing additional equipment, requiring only a limited investment.
ClienTrax’s price is determined by combining the base price and number of workstations utilized. The base price for ClienTrax Standard starts at $3000; the premium version costs $4000. Tiered discounts for workstation licenses are available at 5 and 10 units.
AVImark (avimark.net), owned by Henry Schein Animal Health, is a popular PIMS with over 10,000 users worldwide (company statistic). The system is well known for its ease of use and scalability that meet the dynamic needs of a growing practice.
AVImark uses a shared-file system with a Windows network protocol. The recommended operating system requirements vary slightly based on the total number of active workstations, but are all based on Windows 7 Professional as the minimum recommended platform. A full list of technical requirements can be found at avimark.net/gtka/hardware-requirements.
AVImark offers several features that support paperless and/or paper-lite practices, including appointment and boarding calendars, electronic medical records (EMR), active inventory monitoring, template and custom reporting, as well as templates for treatment planning and estimate creation.
AVImark’s reputation in the industry is as a user-friendly practice management platform. Some of AVImark’s most popular and well-known attributes include:
- Integration: AVImark integrates with more than 50 vendors and service providers, including in-house diagnostic equipment, reference laboratories, pharmacy and inventory management services, payment processing, digital radiography, insurance, and client education.
- One system at one price: AVImark is sold as a complete system. Whether a practice has one or multiple workstations, AVImark does not charge extra for additional seat licenses, either initially or as practices grow.
- Single client information display (CID): CID allows users to access all client/patient data and related software features from a single screen.
- Information search features: Lists of clients and patients that share similar characteristic(s), such as patients that have not been seen in over a year or are over a certain age, can easily be generated. This feature is useful when creating patient reminders, sending new client letters, or launching targeted promotions.
Rapport (from Henry Schein Animal Health) is a set of PIMS integrated tools intended to elevate a practice’s quality of client communication; it:
- Enables clients to utilize online appointment scheduling features
- Responds instantly with text and email confirmations when clients book appointments online, even after hours
- Automatically updates the appointment calendar and notifies staff
- Includes multimedia reminders, practice websites, patient portals, and client education materials; all work in sync with AVImark software.
AVImark’s conversion technology has been improved, making the switch to AVImark’s software much easier. This streamlined process converts data from the practice’s old management system to the new system, and can produce an initial conversion within 30 days.
The initial purchase price is $7400 for the standard AVImark startup package, which includes software, a year of technical support, data backup, and initial training.
NEW PIMS PRODUCTS
Several new entrants into the PIMS marketplace in recent years have introduced new innovations and improvements to veterinary practice PIMS.
This cloud-based practice management software program offers EMR capabilities, customizable forms, integration with major reference laboratory providers, reporting features, and an integrated client portal. As a cloud-based system, the PIMS has no equipment requirements beyond an Internet connection.
VetPort is also a cloud-based PIMS that offers customizable EMR capabilities, access from anywhere, and automated client communications. The system is priced as a monthly subscription based on the number of users within the practice.
Animal Intelligence Software, Inc (animalintelligence.com)
Animal Intelligence Software, Inc, provides management systems for private practices, medical and research facilities, and universities. The company offers two primary products—AI Genesis and AI Galaxy. AI Galaxy is marketed as a system that utilizes SMART records, which improves efficiency, reduces missed charges, and enhances overall practice profitability.
VetBlue is marketed as an affordable web-based veterinary software program for offices of all sizes and types, such as equine and holistic veterinary practices and mobile clinics. The system manages all key areas of a veterinary practice in a user-friendly and portable online interface, including client communication, scheduling and appointment booking, patient visits and medical records, invoicing, payments and collections, and reminders.
The PIMS discussed in this article represent only part of the numerous options available to practices today. In Part 2, other leading systems and several new up and comers in the world of practice management systems will be highlighted (see Table 2).
|Table 2. PIMS that will be Highlighted in Veterinary Practice Software & Technology: Part 2|
CID = client information display; EMR = electronic medical records; PIMS = practice information management system