Laser therapy is one of the fastest growing modalities in veterinary medicine. This trend started about a decade ago, and now about one in every three clinics employs therapy laser, with hundreds of new clinics implementing lasers every month.
Despite this solid install base, virtually none of the laser manufacturers have built a laser that can integrate into a working veterinary clinic from a data-connectivity perspective. But that landscape is changing, leading to some serious benefits in technician workflow and clinic financials. Some of these integration points are:
- Practice Management Systems via Modality Work List (MWL)
- PACS Archiving
- Direct to the Pet-Owner Communication
Most veterinary clinics have long since graduated from paper record keeping to digital platforms that streamline the flow of information, both before the patient sees the veterinarian and after the services are performed. With this in mind, for years in the world of imaging (Digital Radiography, Ultrasound, CT, MRI, etc.) the most state-of-the-art equipment has been developed to seamlessly integrate into these digital workflows.
Practice Management Systems and Modality Work List (MWL)
What do your technicians and front-of-the-house staff interact with most? Your Practice Management System (PMS), from companies as Via, EzyVet, AVImark, Cornerstone to name a few. That’s where all the data gets entered, viewed, updated, and tracked.
This digital (and now often cloud-based) platform allows full access to your patient data, from your receptionist answering the phone/door to schedule visits, to requesting images and/or other services to be done, to notes about all of the above, and even for following up on patients after/between visits.
So when it comes time for the patient to receive the benefit of a piece of equipment — whether to get diagnostic imaging or a device-based (perhaps laser) therapy — there SHOULD be no reason to have to double-enter your patients data on that device.
That’s why the tech community invented Modality Work Listing (MWL). This is a server that acts as a middle-man between PMS and other modalities. When you request/schedule a Digital Radiography study, for example, your receptionist/tech simply selects one of the pre-configured modalities/studies, and the PMS “posts” that request to the MWL server.
Then standing at the modality, a tech can then “query” this server, which load the selected patient’s info onto the device, and begin using it, with no further data input. Until now, therapy lasers were NOT of the modalities that were set up to do this, so if you wanted to keep track of laser treatments for a given patient (and the laser was even set up to do so), you’d have to manually re-enter this data onto the device, usually via a less-than-optimal keyboard on a small, touch-screen display.
But you (as in your clinic) already know the patient information, so why the double data entry? Because most lasers come from companies that only sell lasers, and so since their arrival in the veterinary space, they only created “bolt-on” solutions that worked on their own and didn’t communicate with other things in the practice.
Fortunately, this landscape has finally changed. Book-keeping errors can be avoided and technician time can be saved/better allocated to patient care. No more mis-spelled patient names, mis-matched patient IDs, or the worst consequence of all: no record keeping of laser treatments whatsoever. From a billing and a medical record perspective, these are HUGE things to miss out on. No more.
Speaking of medical records, where do the diagnostic images of all your patients live? Your PACS server, whether on-site or in the cloud. Yes, of course they also live on the individual modalities (i.e. you can go to your DR system to see their x-ray images, then separately to your Ultrasound machine to see those images/videos), but PACS consolidates all of these and offers one central location for storage of all the above.
And the best PACS providers have mobile, browser-based interfaces so you can be anywhere (at any workstation in your clinic, or your home computer, or even on your phone) and view images for any patient.
But your modality has to support PACS. Up until now, therapy lasers did not. This means that again, the only place you could go to find out the treatment history of your patient was to the laser itself, which most often lives in a single room of your clinic, and doesn’t have a mouse-and-keyboard to make that search easier.
And even then, you can’t cross-reference the other services you’ve done with that patient in any automatic fashion. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see the DR image of that Labrador’s arthritic hip before treatment started, then in the same screen know how many laser treatments it has had so far, then see its follow-up DR image to monitor its success?
Now you can, but only because a laser has finally been developed to wrap the treatment data in a format that PACS can understand (DICOM) AND have built-in machinery to be able to electronically send that info to whatever PACS you configure.
This truly closes the loop as far as internal data communication, from entry to updating to viewing. But what about the pet-owner?
Direct to Pet-Owner Communication
Your pet owners don’t have access (thank goodness, right?) to your clinic’s internal data. But that doesn’t mean that they (or you) couldn’t benefit if they were more in the loop on their pet’s journey through your clinic.
Some Practice Management Systems have notification systems to alert or send calendar updates to pet-owners for upcoming visits, which is awesome. This helps with compliance, getting those pets back in your clinic for follow-up and further services. But this is unfortunately rare in the veterinary space.
Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to be able to send modality- or even treatment-specific information to the pet-owners right from the device? Especially with a modality like therapy laser — where pet-owners are much less educated, and for which there are no images or test results other immediate, “concrete” feedback – this pet-owner communication can really help bridge the gap.
- describes what was done to their pet on a given day,
- sets expectations for timeline of recovery/response to the therapy,
- provides at-home advice on how to further care for their pets,
- and even reminds them that this is not a magic wand that cures their animal in one session, but instead requires 4-6 treatments over the next few weeks
…is enormously beneficial to the pet-owner, the pet itself, and to you.
There is always some variation of diet, activity level, attention, and quite frankly, patient-response to laser therapy. But the more consistent you make the messaging and the more closely you can monitor (with regular follow-up visits) the patient’s progress, the more consistent will be the results and the more confident you will be with them.
Take Home Message
Laser therapy will help your patients recover from most injuries faster. And therapy lasers will enhance your practice as a result. Now finally these lasers can fully integrate into your practice, linking the communication (both internal and to your pet-owners) in a way that you’re accustomed to with other modalities…and even in some surprisingly ways that you’ve yet to experience.
To learn more about the first fully integration therapy laser or about lasers, in general, call 800-268-5354 or click here.