Technology Use in Equine Practice

Author:
Publish date:
Credit: Amy Dragoo

Credit: Amy Dragoo

Life as an equine veterinarian isn’t getting any easier. It’s not enough to keep up with advances in medical diagnostics and treatment, because clients are expecting more and more information and contact time with us.

When we look for solutions, we are faced with an overwhelming barrage of possible options. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier, but it seems as if we are busier than ever. Why can’t we get ahead of all the demands on our time? “Most of the technology I find is overwhelming and slows me down.” I hear this kind of comment from equine veterinarians all the time. Fortunately, there is a way to navigate through the chaos.

Like you, I want to use technology that makes my life easier. To do that, it must satisfy a couple of criteria: It must work on all platforms, and it must connect across all the screens in my life. The mobile world is made up of Apple and Android users, so whatever technology I use, it must be able to be used by friends, co-workers and clients. It also has to be avail screen I am using. I want to use the technology on my phone in between calls, on my laptop at the office and on my tablet when need be. To do this, the technology that makes my life easier must exist in a web version as well as an app version, and it has to sync across all my devices so I can start work on one device, pause and leave it, then resume work on another platform without missing a beat.

Once I have these two criteria met, I like to separate the technology I use into three segments: It makes me better organized, it allows me to communicate with co-workers and colleagues better, and finally, it allows me to communicate with clients more easily.

Personal Organization

Personal organization is a challenging category, because I want to organize the reams of information that I come across every day and to which I might want to refer at some point in the future. I also want to make sure that I am getting all the necessary tasks done, while ensuring that I am spending the appropriate amount of time on each. Here are my “can’t-live-without” applications.

Evernote.com: Evernote can be considered a digital filing cabinet. I use it to write quick notes, create meeting agendas, clip web articles I want to remember, capture photos of interesting things I see or record voice memos when I can’t write. Evernote captures all of these in one place with an excellent search system that lets you search for an item by a key word, tag (descriptive word associated with the item), date or where it was created. It can also be used as an excellent to-do list. Microsoft has a similar product called One Note that comes with its software bundles.

Siri/Microsoft Cortana/Google Voice: Voice-assisted actions are essential for veterinarians who spend their lives driving around or are busy doing appointments all day. It is far easier and safer to ask Siri to compose a text message or call a contact than to fumble around on your phone while driving (which often is illegal). You can even use it for directions or finding a nearby restaurant. Some vets are even using these platforms for dictating medical records. All of the big software companies are exploring voice assistance, so becoming familiar with it now will make it easier in the future when it is pervasive in much of what we do online and recreationally.

Wunderlist: I think I have tried every todo list app out there, and I keep coming back to Wunderlist. It allows me to categorize to-do items, set reminders, add notes or sub tasks to an item. I can even forward emails to it that require a later action. This might be the time-saving app that I use the most.

Office Time: Have you ever wondered how much time you spend writing medical records or talking to clients behind the wheel every day? Office Time makes recording those tasks simple. You can create the various categories that you want to track. It easily starts and stops recording time during an activity, and it gives an easy-to-read graph and overview of your activities. One thing it will confirm for you is that equine vets spend too much time driving.

Group Organization

Whether it is with other people in our practice or referring vets, farriers, chiropractors or any of the other members of the health care team, sharing information seamlessly is essential. Here are two of my favorites.

Dropbox: Dropbox is a Cloud-based document storage site that lets you share any size and any kind of document to anyone just by emailing them a link. I also use it as my primary backup for all of my documents. Instead of having to schedule a backup with a hard drive or another online backup system, this backs up documents instantly as I work on them.

Google: Beyond Google Maps and Calendar, it seems like I use the Google suite of productivity tools more and more; they are free and they integrate with so many other applications. If you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, you can use the free Google versions. They don’t have all the bells and whistles of the Microsoft products, but they are more than enough for everyday use. You can use Google Forms for sending client surveys or Google Drive (think Dropbox) to save documents.

Client Communication

More and more, clients expect to have access to their vets at all times, and all have their own ways of how they want to receive communications. The more we can standardize or automate communication, the easier it is for us. At some point, we have to turn the phone off and have our own time.

Hootsuite: Particularly for vet practices with one or two vets, coordinating social media posts can be overwhelming. With all of the various platforms available, making sure that you post and respond to messages is too much for a person with limited time to handle. Hootsuite is the best-known of the various social media automation platforms. It allows you to schedule posts across platforms and receive messages all on one dashboard. You can even schedule all of your Facebook posts for the whole week at one time. It is indispensable for anyone trying to manage multiple social media platforms or accounts.

SimplyBookMe: This is another option for a one- or two-vet practice in that it allows clients to book their own appointments with the doctors of their choice. It can be configured for certain areas for specific days so that veterinarians aren’t driving all over their territories during the day. Vets who use this love the time they save by not having to book appointments when they get back into the office.

Slydial.com: I admit that I often prefer to leave a voice message for someone, rather than get into a long discussion. Slydial has one exceptional use, and that is it only leaves voice mails. When you dial a number, it tricks the system into going straight to voice mail. Think of how much time you could have back in the day if you could avoid long conversations.

Educreations: This software can also be used with colleagues because it allows you to record voiceovers and draw on a photo or video. I first saw this when a farrier sent me a picture of a toe crack with a narration of what he wanted to do with the crack, along with lines and arrows on the image directing me to areas of concern. It was brilliant. So much of what we do with farriers and clients is visual, so this can be used to review a case or offer direction to colleagues and clients. Instead of calling each person separately or typing a long, descriptive email, you can simply record your instructions, draw or highlight something of interest, and send that to everyone involved at the same time. Again, this gives you more time saved during the day.

Take-Home Message

There are numerous types of technologies that equine veterinarians can expect to see become more mainstream in the very near future. Currently, there are ECG apps, digital stethoscopes that talk to phones and wearables for horses. The latter work much like a Fitbit does with people, utilizing motion sensors that attach to halters to monitor the HR and activity of horses. I can see this filling a need for monitoring colicking horses or those recovering from surgery. Technology can make our lives easier. In order to simplify which apps or software to use, it helps to use the following checklist:

• Can I use it on each of my screens (phone, tablet and computer)?

• Will the program work on any software?

• Will it improve my personal productivity?

• Will it help me collaborate with coworkers and colleagues?

• Will it help me communicate more efficiently with clients?

Is there a software or app that you use that you can’t live without? Comment below to share some of your tips and suggestions.