Why go paperless?

  • The simple efficiency of having all the information at your fingertips. No more searching for misplaced files.
  • Data protection. With proper electronic protection, data is safe from natural disasters and system failures.
  • Clients who expect digital access to their pet’s information and who expect the practice to utilise technology.
  • Electronic monitoring and scanning allows for better tracking of patient visits, payments and medical records.
Where to start?

Click on the tabs below for tips and ideas on planning and the first steps you can take.

  • Get staff involved and appoint one of your staff members to oversee your efforts and encourage others to use paperless systems.
  • Evaluate what needs to be changed in the practice before paperless becomes an option. An inventory of your electronic infrastructure is the first step. How do you feel about your software? A good, hard look at your software can take time.
  • If you determine that your practice management software can do the job, look at how you would document items such as digital X-rays, both skeletal and dental. These are important parts of the electronic record.
  • Next, consider the reporting, connectivity and ease-of-use aspects of a paperless environment. Reports become very valuable in a paperless environment.
  • Look at a client self-appointment booking web system. Most practice management systems offer this.
  • Do you have a good backup system? Plan for routine data recovery as well as disaster recovery; they are equally important. Make sure the correct protection protocols are in place and develop internet safety rules for your staff to follow.  Look at both on and off site backup options and having two separate backup solutions.
  • You also need to evaluate the placement of data-entry systems. Paperless fails every time if there are not enough entry points and the staff has to wait to enter data. Are these systems up to date and are there enough of them around the practice?
    One of the biggest mistakes of going digital is not providing the appropriate training for employees. Whilst younger, tech-savvy team members may be able to deal with the new changes easily, older staff members may find the transition tough. Whether you are installing new technology or just moving to your own digitised system, full training should be provided to everyone.
  • Replace one paper-heavy process at a time with its digital equivalent—maybe start with the easiest process to transform—and when it’s running the way you want it, move on to another one.
  • This is the perfect time to make sure your patient records are up to date. Ask clients to fill out a new contact form, and make sure to include lines for an email address, for permission to send text messages and for information about who is allowed to bring in the animal and who is financially responsible.
  • Sign up for online bills and request paperless statements from banks and service providers.
  • Pay invoices online, too, as this reduces not just the use of paper checks and envelopes needed to post them but also improves overall productivity
  • Make appointments on phone, as part of email discussions or as a web booking.  (Think about including GDPR waiver on the forms to allow contact with either the client or the vet.)
  • Send confirmation of appointment and reminder of appointment by email or SMS with the final reminder by SMS 2 days before appointment.  (think about including a link to T&C’s which allow charging if a non-show in reminder emails and SMS messages)
  • Send internal lab results by data link to computer records.
  • Store digital radiographs on system (be aware of large amount of storage needed to store digital images). Most systems will allow you to lay out the radiographs on a format that can then be sent as a PDF to the client.
  • Show radiographs and images to client on computer screen. A large touch screen could be installed for this display or to put up diagrams etc. These can be annotated for the client to see and sent to the client as a PDF if necessary.
  • Show estimates to client on computer screen and then email to client as required or print if client requests a paper copy.
  • Update client record on PMS with initial findings, discussion of options, treatment provided, post op instructions & follow up care required etc. These can be transferred to PDF to email to client if needed (or printed for clients who request hard copies).  If client was a referral, send report as PDF to owner and referring vet (making sure to put any images through watermarking software before inclusion).
  • Email receipt and detailed invoice to client at time of payment unless client requests a paper copy.
  • Make next appointment on the computer with appointment date etc sent electronically – with later automated reminders as above.

Things to consider:

  • Invest in document management software to organise all documents. Not only will this make storing, searching and retrieving records easier, but will also allow you to manage workflows, modify permissions, share documents with others
  • http://www.vetdentalcharts.com/ is a very useful app for storing your dental records.  This software comes highly recommended by one of SPVS members. Images & radiographs can be attached and PDF versions can be sent in client friendly form to the owners direct from the software – detailing not only findings – but treatment provided. It also uses all of the accepted terminology etc.
  • Remember to scan documents using optical character recognition (OCR) software in order that they can be searched.
  • Look at using Evernote – good for storing notes and files and for searching with links to tablets, phones, web and desktops.  https://evernote.com/
  • Encryption – with online backup look at a second layer of encryption software for your most sensitive files.  Boxcryptor ( https://www.boxcryptor.com/en/ ) works very well with Dropbox ( www.dropbox.com )
Less Paper, Better Communication
Peter Renwick, Plexi.

More and more practices are opting for paperless workflow systems to track patients through hospitalisation and surgery. Everything from electronic whiteboards to track where the patient is throughout their visit, electronic treatment sheets and anaesthetic monitoring sheets to electronic consent forms and billing.
In theory it streamlines the whole process, reducing human error and the likelihood of underbilling by missing chargeable items. But how easy is it to adapt in practice and to retrain your team and is it worth the effort? Peter Renwick talks to Nick Lloyd about why, as co-founder of Willows Referrals, he decided this had to be the way forward.
Peter talked in more detail about paperless workflow systems at SPVS/VMG Focus on Our Digital Future Virtual Summit on 23 June.