Top 5 Reasons Veterinarians Don’t Go Paperless

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Going Paperless – A Very Prickly Subject!

When a rocket scientist and a computer phobic doctor open an animal hospital, many barriers to new technology are debunked. Recently I learned from a top sales rep for Henry Schein Animal Health that only 20% of that rep’s accounts were paperless. I know hundreds of good reasons to go paperless. This had me wondering why more veterinarian’s don’t go paperless. So I prepared the following top 5 reasons to test your curiosity.

Please help me help you and post a comment of the reason(s) that most fit your situation. I would love to publish a followup article targeted to overturn the number one voted reason. Here’s the countdown …

5. The current process isn’t broken!

There are so many other things that could be addressed and improved if any extra time magically appeared.  Our paper records process has been tuned, tweaked, and improved for years.  There’s simply no need to throw this hospital into turmoil for some promised gain that we’re already probably enjoying now with our well honed process.

To avoid argument let’s just ask if you have ever had to look for a record?  Have you ordered your entire staff to look for a record?  Have you ever had to abandon a record search because the client was waiting in the room for too long?  This is just one item that will never ever happen again once you go paperless.


4. It’s too expensive to implement!

Scanning all the old records, training, buying more computers, we just can’t afford to make the change.

What is in an old record that you absolutely must have?  Not to beat a dead horse but if you couldn’t find that record would you refuse service?  When a new client walks in with their full medical history, how much of it do you actually read?  You don’t need to scan the old records.  Keep them on site for maybe a year or two, then move them off site until they age past your states retention requirement, then just stop paying the storage bill and watch for them on Storage Wars.

Computers are cheap.  Well, the level of computer needed to run practice management software is very inexpensive.  Unfortunately there are many IT companies convinced a server infrastructure is absolutely necessary for anything more than 4 or 5 computers.  Watch for a future article on ‘How much IT does an animal hospital actually need’.

3. My staff will mutiny!

OK maybe this one holds a little truth.  Many people are resistant to change.  It’s a major change.  It will affect every role in the hospital:  Veterinary Reception, Certified Technicians, Surgical Techs, Pet Groomers, and animal care or kennel staff just to highlight a few.

While this improvement will effect how everyone contributes to the hospital, everyone will end up with benefits.  Most importantly, your patients and clients will benefit.  To address the potential for mutiny, drive the change through each area highlighting ‘what’s in it for them’.  There are many more important reasons to go paperless.  If focusing on human nature to gain acceptance and support gets the job done fastest, by all means run with it!

2. Requires too much doctor time!

Doctor time is a major critical path component of delivering top notch health care.  Any time spent on non critical path projects like fixing something that’s not broken is just not allowable.  It will require far too much doctor time to make the transition to paperless.

The end result will demonstrate a shift in the ‘doctor time’ chart.  Time spent writing records will shift to time with clients.  Time to connect and advocate for more labwork, dentistry, and other medical services.  The trick is to identify the major time savers in the new process and implement those first.

For instance, glossaries of SOAPs, surgical reports, and drug labels will quickly have your Docs slightly modifying pre-written content that they drop into the record with a mouse click.  Post exam notes – your cat is fat, recommended diet change, your cat has bad teeth, recommended a dental, etc.  (No more carpal tunnel syndrome and more thorough records.)

1. Doctors and staff won’t learn the software…

Bottom line this is the culprit.  If your entire team was well versed in your practice management software (Avimark, Infinity, Cornerstone, etc) they would already have morphed into a paperless process.  Each medical chart and clipboard in your hospital can be replaced with a feature in your practice management software.  Your team and all the doctors need to learn just the parts that they need for their part of the process.

Depending on your practice management software, you will also need to get a little creative sometimes to keep track of the steps.  Consider the chart movement through the hospital.  Each person handing it to the next in line signifies their part is done.  Things like vaccine stickers demonstrate they were given.  All of these current checks and balances need to be reproduced in the paperless process.  Some software has nifty tools, others only require you to come up with your own treatment code.  There is a way to achieve your current level of documentation regardless of the software choice.  Going beyond and getting so much more for far less time than the original process is the true payoff.


Once again, please comment with your biggest obstacle to going paperless.  You may find yourself with a rocket scientist (that’s demonstrated he can successfully work with a techno phobic Doc) showing you a path around that obstacle.

Kind regards, Bret

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons Veterinarians Don’t Go Paperless

    • Thank you for raising another good roadblock to going paperless – power outages. We’re located in a city of 22,000 people and we have the occasional outage as well. Fortunately our exam rooms have frosted glass doors towards large windows in our reception area. As long as our staff keeps on working like it’s no big deal, we haven’t had a customer leave because the power was out. Your main computer, where the practice management database is located, should be on a battery backup. At the same time, put your phone system and internet router on a battery backup as well. When the power goes out, your phones will still work, you can run credit cards, and you will have one computer with full access to your records. If the power were going to be out for days, with paperless records you could restore the offsite backup to a laptop and recharge it at night.

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