It’s no secret that keeping it all together—with respect to accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory management, scheduling and billing—has become easier, thanks to technology. But sleek gadgets aren’t the only answer; nor is just any software system.
Because equine veterinary practice management is so specialized, generalized systems don’t usually address a practice’s unique needs. And even within this category, there are varying business models that need to be addressed on an individual basis.
Hospital and Veterinary Management System
Based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Business Infusions Inc. is the developer of HVMS, which stands for Hospital and Veterinary Management System. Created within an actual practice before being brought to market, HVMS is available in a number of different versions, including HVMS Equine, HVMS Racetrack, HVMS Ambulatory, HVMS Stable/Barn Management, HVMS Repro and even HVMS Small Animal. The software is designed to integrate all business functions through one interface, including accounting, digital image file management (see “Picture Perfect” in the archives), inventory control, invoicing, and partner and commission-based tracking and scheduling. Each version enables vets to tailor the software to meet the unique needs of their practices—and to scale up as they grow.
Scott Pickard, president and CEO of Business Infusions, notes that enterprise solutions offer vets a way of streamlining and capitalizing on the different revenue streams flowing into their organizations. “Some of the more complex practices have multiple locations and different profit centers within their businesses, and they want to have one common tool that can allow them to manage these businesses properly, on top of just keeping track of medical records,” he says. Efficient billing, therefore, becomes all the more important.
“It’s commonly known in the equine veterinary world that vets don’t bill [for] about 20 percent of what they do,” he adds. HVMS provides the capability of capturing billing information as services have been performed.
While equine veterinary medicine is largely a service-based business, there are products that go along with these services as well—and it’s always a challenge to keep track of who bought what, or what medicine was used during which procedure.
“In equine practices, especially the larger ones, there is a huge cost incurred just to get the inventory through the door, let alone what’s involved in managing it and making sure that it’s billed properly,” Pickard says. “Our approach to this was to make sure that when the vets are practicing veterinary medicine, their billing is automatically being completed, and their inventory is automatically being allocated and billed, as well, so that they don’t have three sets of billing: services, inventory and billing.”
Essentially, all of this is taking place as the vet is going about his or her regular day. HVMS boasts the ability to produce over 100 different types of reports containing this data, depending on the information the practice manager wishes to analyze.
Veterinary Information Assistant
VIA Information Systems, based in Frisco, Texas, offers the Veterinary Information Assistant, which can be tailored to a number of different practice environments, including equine, ambulatory, mixed animal, emergency, specialty, referral and small animal. Designed to streamline workflow management, VIA manages invoicing (including split billing), treatment/fee capture, hospitalized patient monitoring through the use of electronic whiteboards, digital radiograph and DICOM radiology transmissions, lab results, digital images and ultrasound videos and medical records.
VIA sales representative Ryan Carlin says that the company was one of the first to bring the Microsoft SQL database to this market 11 years ago.
“Why that’s applicable to the equine market is that it makes our product very scalable,” he says. “We can cater to the mobile vet, where there is anything from one laptop to three workstations. We also work well in specialty, surgery and general practice applications where there are 30 to 50 workstations.” He adds that VIA can be customized based on the existing workflow of the practice, or the workflow the organization is aiming to achieve.
DVM Manager, developed by Butler Schein Animal Health in Columbus, Ohio, offers three basic levels: Practice Manager, Operations Manager and Office Manager Plus. In addition, the software can be packaged with a number of different modules, including Resource Scheduler, Whiteboard Module, Boarding Module, Accounting Link, Multi-Hospital/Multi-Departmental, Equine Module, Equine Breeding and Boarding Module, Mobile Computing, Time Clock and Problem-Oriented Medical Record/SOAP. The suite is functional with wireless connectivity, tablet PCs and bar coding.
Jerry Savage, president of Butler Schein’s Technology Division, notes that one of the most significant issues, especially for equine ambulatory vets, remains the capturing and billing of services as they are being performed on a mobile basis.
“With our system, it’s easy to collect medical information and invoice in one step, and then they can capture that,” he says. “When they get back to the office, the ability to link that information up with their server is critical. That is one of the main objectives we had in addressing ambulatory veterinarians: giving them the ability to be able to track their pharmaceuticals and inventory in the field.” He adds that DVM Manager enables split billing, and will generate statements according to the farm, the trainer or the owner. “That is a key component, and one of the basic needs of an equine vet in relation to the software that they use.”
So, too, is the application of inventory management features. “Our customers need to be conscious of every penny,” Savage notes. “They need to make sure that they are capturing all of the billables, and that they are not encountering any shrinkage issues. That ability to be able to manage that mobile inventory is truly important.”
With the increasing prevalence of devices such as Apple iPhones, Apple iPads and Google Androids, software developers are under pressure to create mobile-friendly applications. “We have some vets that are running our software on the iPad application right now,” Pickard noted, adding that a number of others are using Blackberrys to take advantage of scheduling functionality.
From a client service perspective, one of the biggest trends is social media, and how it is—or isn’t—being used as a communications tool between practices and their customer bases. “Some vets are currently examining how to tie into sites like Facebook and Twitter in a way that creates actual value for the customer, and potentially, additional revenue,” Pickard says. “This ties back to client service, which the equine business is really built on. Like it or not, that’s what the customer is demanding, so they
will have no choice but to go in that direction.”
Business Infusions, Inc. (HVMS-Hospital and Veterinary Management System)
VIA Information Systems (Veterinary Information Assistant)
While there are a number of equine-specific practice management software suites out there, it’s not enough that they are simply suited for veterinarians specializing in the care of horses. As everyone knows, there are varying business models upon which a practice may be based, including exclusively ambulatory, ambulatory with a small office, hospital, racetrack and surgery. Even if the practices within each of these categories operate in a similar fashion, every practice, in the end,
When selecting a system that works for your practice, consider a few factors: How mobile are you, and how much more mobile are you going to get? Are you using–or do you wish to use–devices such as the Apple iPad, Apple iPhone or Google Android? What are your projections for growth? Will you be enlisting the expertise of other associates or, perhaps, expanding your reach? The more flexible the system, the better, as long as it’s user-friendly, since one can’t always predict the future. If you do end up scaling up or, for various reasons, downsizing, it’s best if your practice management solution can do so with you.