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      In his seminal 2000 book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell outlines what sociologists call the diffusion model. It’s a way of looking at how an idea or a product gets adopted, with data to back it up.

      The product the sociologists tracked was a new corn seed introduced in 1928. It was a remarkably better product, but that didn’t mean it was adopted at once. In fact, it took 13 years.

      Take a look at this timeline:

      It creates a bell curve that also reflects the world today. You have the Innovators, then the Early Adopters, who camp out overnight to get their hands on the new iPhone. You have the Early Majority – those who want the phone but want to first see how the Early Adopters are doing. The Late Majority, who want to hear from a respected authority before giving something a try. And then, like the two remaining farmers in the timeline, the Laggards, who will never see a reason to change, no matter what. Stop asking.

      What does the bell curve mean to us?

      Surely the Early Adopters are the people we think of as high tech. They’re willing to take risks to experience the adventure of new technology. But what does high tech really mean?

      It depends on where you’re at on the bell curve. Because no matter where you are on the bell curve, there’s always a way to inch a little further toward the front. And that small step could make a big difference in your practice.

      Let’s take an everyday occurrence in every practice and a key part of its lifeblood: client health and appointment reminders. Say those words and most people think postcards. But mailing out postcards, particularly if you’re still handwriting the postcards, takes hours. Adopting technology could mean you sign up for an automated program, one that sends them for you so you don’t have to think about it anymore. You’ve saved time and taken a small step forward in technology.

      You don’t have to go high tech. Just go higher tech.

      Let’s take another everyday basic: follow-up phone calls. If it’s anything other than “Willie looks great and is ready for pickup,” there is a lot of time spent on calls. Let’s say Willie’s levels are off and imaging revealed something more complicated than you can communicate in the standard pickup call. Wouldn’t it save time to text once – from your computer, not your cell – to all of Willie’s owners? You could attach a consultative message to everyone, include your diagnostic image and spell out your treatment plan – once.

      Since text messages have a 98 percent open rate, you’ve communicated more completely, with more people, in a fraction of the time.

      What about saving five hours automatically?

      It’s hard to take the time, once a month, every month, to pull together and look at what your practice’s numbers are telling you. Let’s face it, it’s hard to take the time to do that yearly. The five to six hours a month saved gathering the data could be turned into time spent analyzing your data so you can see trends in your practice.

      The nice thing about this kind of practice overview report is you don’t need to invest in a new practice management system. You can look at trends happening from month to month, then decide what your next steps should be. You can go through your day knowing that these benchmarks are being tracked automatically. And you can spend that much more time caring for patients. Or even taking a lunch break.

      Technology that solves problems.

      We all know the heartworm medicine with little stickers to remind clients to give their pets their monthly dose. At her practice in Durango, Colorado, Dr. Stacee Santi noticed a real problem: Clients would buy the medicine, but not give the medicine. “It didn’t make sense. You would never buy medicine without the intention of giving it.” Santi then realized she had apps on her phone from other businesses that were getting her attention; that’s when inspiration struck. Santi found a way to develop an app for her practice, so it would automatically send push notifications with monthly heartworm medicine reminders. Clients love it. Who’s not checking their phone throughout the day? “Those stickers were embarrassing! Even though I was a small practice, I still wanted my practice to have the highest quality equipment so clients knew they were getting the highest quality care,” Santi said.

      Another problem Santi saw was prescription refills. Clients would come on their lunch break and the practice got overcrowded during that time. Refills requested through her app saved her staff and her clients time. Request a refill, and it’s ready whenever you stop in.

      We’ve come a long way since paper calendar books.

      I still remember when we started using the appointment calendar within IntraVet instead of scheduling appointments by hand in our giant appointment book. We all grumbled and clung to our precious master book. But as the days went on, we realized how efficient it was to be able to have multiple staff members scheduling appointments for multiple clients and pets at the same time. It improved our scheduling and reduced errors tremendously. Soon we didn’t know how we had done things manually for so long.

      As Dr. Santi said, “There isn’t a harder job on the planet than being a vet. I am passionate about our industry and if we are going to continue to strive, we have to be innovating for our clients and our patients.” Put a little technology on your side to make it easier. You don’t have to take a giant leap. Just the next step.



      Originally published in Insight magazine, Companion Animal Edition, February 2018.
      References Essany M. SMS marketing wallops email with 98% open rate and only 1% spam. Mobile Marketing Watch website. Published August 6, 2014. Gladwell MG. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston, MA: Little, Brown; 2000.