• 01 March 2017

Cloud Computing in Practice Management – What’s the Big Deal?

The idea of “the cloud” has been around in veterinary practice management for some time, but while there are several cloud-based systems out there, it’s not always that obvious what difference it makes, or why it’s such a useful change.

 

As veterinary practice is growing and changing, and vets need to be ever more business-savvy as well as medically minded it’s worth considering a cloud-based system if you’re debating changing your PMS.

Not only does it remove the hassle of having to maintain and upgrade your systems internally (you get at it via the internet, or in some cases via an app – or even with offline access that later syncs with the main system) but you can run it on any current operating system or hardware – computer, tablet or even phone.

Data entered into the system will update within or across linked practices in real time, and any upgrades that are made to the software are done remotely, meaning there is no interruption to accessing your information and you do not need to do anything on your side. Changes and improvements can be made rapidly in response to user feedback (at the moment we are adding new features or improvements weekly at the request of our users) and staff members can personalise their access to show exactly what they want to see.

Other advantages of using a cloud-based system include being able to communicate more easily with pet owners and other vets, via a variety of approaches. We’re all familiar with sending email and text reminders, but taking advantage of technology to work in novel ways makes your practice stand out, and provide the level of customer service that pet owners have come to expect with minimal effort on the part of the practice.

This might be as simple as offering online booking of appointments, or having a “patient portal”. This could help vets keep owners updated of their pet’s progress during a day as an inpatient, or give owners access to the important bits of their pets’ notes, let them interact directly with their pet’s notes by entering their animals’ weight or other details and view upcoming appointments, vaccination or wellness plan status, order repeat prescriptions or pay online.

 

All of which is awesome, of course, but what exactly is the cloud?

At its most straightforward, using the cloud is like using amazon or paypal – you navigate to the relevant web page, in this case your private practice management system pages, sign in and then do what you need to.  “Cloud”, in this case just means that the data and software is mostly kept off the premises, and is accessed via the internet.

There are various flavours of “cloud” (public, private, hybrid and so on) but this refers to the underlying infrastructure and hardware and doesn’t affect the way the system works.  To be strictly accurate, cloud means that the servers are built in such a way as to allocate computing resources from a shared pool of processors, but this doesn’t affect the way the average user interacts with a cloud-based system. It does affect the cost, however, because it will be cheaper to provider a software service where the amount of underlying compute that is being used is known and can be charged for more precisely.

All the data is kept securely, and protected using bank-grade security. It’s also automatically backed up to another site, often in another location in the country or even elsewhere in the EU.

True cloud-based IT provides huge benefits by really using the potential of cloud computing. It’s not just using the equivalent of existing software hosted off the premises, but being able to personalise what you’re seeing and doing to fit around the way you work, whether that’s developing custom fields in the notes, having features rapidly iterated to your requirements based on feedback or simply being able to see your preferred overview when you log in. It’s also about making use of the data analysis possibilities created by having access to more processing power, making it quicker and easier to pull out practice performance metrics both historically and in real time.

 

 

Written by Sarah Cochrane, COO at Vetcloud – for more information visit: www.vetcloud.co

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