10 Handy IT Tips for Vets

 

Getting good veterinary advice is easy – vets have high standards of training, industry and ethical standards. Put simply, if you ask your vet for advice, you can be confident that the advice will be sound.

Unfortunately the same can’t always be said for the IT industry.

In tech experience and training can vary and all too often commercial motivations take precednece over what might be best for the customer. Your telco is hardly going to ring you and let you know that you can disconnect your fax line, after all.

So here’s our top 10 handy IT tips for vets. Please share your tips in the comments!

  1. Turning it off and back on again will probably do the trick. From a PC that’s running slow or an Internet router that won’t work – msot of the time a reboot will indeed get it working as normal. Just remember to properly shut it down and restart it if it’s a computer.
  2. Broadband overage fees are for chumps. Broadband quotas are so 2005. Ring your ISP and tell them that if they won’t give you unlimited broadband at no additional charge then you’ll switch to someone who does. They’ll ususally comply to keep your business. If they don’t then find an ISP who will.
  3. Providing free wifi to your clients is easy. Once you’ve got unlimited broadband, that is. Look for a wireless access point (WAP) that supports the creation of a ‘guest’ network – you use this to provide clients with free WiFi without letting them access your own network.
  4. You don’t need a fax machine anymore. Seriously. You’d be surprised at how many vets still rely on faxes for lab results, etc. Almost all of them could save themselves $40 per month by asking their suppliers to email instead of faxing documents and cancelling that fax line. There are also fax to email services that cost peanuts that allow you to continue receiving faxes (to your inbox) without a fax machine.
  5. You don’t need to spend $300+ on Microsoft Office. Why waste all that money when products like Libre Office are free and Google’s excellent Google Apps suite (which lets you edit Microsoft Office documents online) costs only 5 bucks per month.
  6. It’s easy to have email addresses that have your clinic name in them (e.g. ‘bob.smith@acmevets.com’) The part after the ‘@’ is called the domain and it’s really easy to replace your ‘gmail.com’, ‘yahoo.com’ or other generic email address with one using your own domain. You can then redirect messages from your old generic email account to your new personalised one.
  7. You can back up your PC’s for only $5 per month each. Check out BackBlaze.com. There’s no limit to how much you can back up.
  8. It’s usually cheaper to replace old computers than to continue to ‘sweat’ your assests. Older, slower computers cost more to maintain and inhibit productivity. Consider refreshing (replacing) your PC’s every 5 – 6 years.
  9. Passwords are important. Don’t stick them to your monitor! Changing passwords regularly isn’t as important as choosing passwords that are hard to guess and using different passwords for different services. Always use a unique password for sensitive services, such as online banking.
  10. Finally, you don’t need a server. Is maintaining IT infrastructure, managing backups, etc. your core business? Didn’t think so. Servers are like fax machines – they’re a relic of a bygone era. Choose apps that are secure, cost effective and cloud-based. Focus on buying equipment that drives value for your practice.

Smell that? Why software is already dead.

A customer asked us today about how long this cloud ‘trend’ was going to last, as ‘everyone is using the cloud buzzword these days’.

This did get us musing about how, often, it’s only when we’re looking back that we realise how significant shifts in technology have been.  We don’t normally realise how significant they are when we are in the middle of them.

When the IBM PC was released it made news all around the world, but no one (except possibly Bill Gates) anticipated that one day we’d all have computers of our own or what a massive change the PC revolution would bring to the Western world.

The emergence of the Internet and of email during the early 1990’s also received lots of media attention. Those of us old enough to remember terms like ‘the information superhighway’ can only laugh as we remember how it was more like a bullock track, in the rain, than some kind of highway.  Oh how slowly we sipped those ones and zeros down our phone lines!

Despite all of the media attention during the 90’s, even some of tech’s biggest luminaries dismissed the Internet as a fad that would soon pass. Microsoft shunned all things Internet for years before Bill Gates, in 1995, finally realised that a tidal wave was coming and, overnight, changed the strategy and focus of his entire company. For an organisation the size of Microsoft it was a gargantuan pivot that few leaders other than Gates (the old school, ‘kick ass and take names’ Bill Gates, that is) would have been able to pull off.  It was a pivot that not only saved Microsoft (just in the nick of time), but also launched a second golden era for the software juggernaut – one that created hundreds of billions of dollars of value for its shareholders.

It would be another 10 years before any of us would begin to appreciate quite what impact this internet tidal wave would have on all of humanity.  Never before have we had access to so much information, or cat pictures, as is now at our disposal.  Further, the smartphone revolution has placed the infinite knowledge of the Internet in our hands wherever we are and whenever we want it.  This has not only given us something to do on the toilet – it has also meant that the very poor in places like China and India (many of whom have never even seen a computer) have access to the exact same information and cat pictures that we do.  The democratising effect of this information revolution will change the trajectory of the human race in ways we can’t yet contemplate (until we have the luxury of looking back on it, of course).

Around the turn of this century companies such as Salesforce.com realised that the Internet could be used as more than just a huge database.  They figured, correctly it turns out, that it could also be used as a cost effective delivery mechanism for applications.  Applications that users could access from anywhere, using any web-enabled device.  Cloud computing (more specifically, ‘software as a service’, or SaaS) was born.

The traditional software model of installable applications died about the same time.  Unfortunately the vendors of those legacy apps will be the last to realise.

Rod Drury recognised this and turned Xero into one of New Zealand’s most innovative and successful companies in an astonishingly short period of time.  MYOB didn’t and squandered their dominant market position.  A market position they’ll never regain, even though they have since ‘gone cloud’.

Google recognised this and turned themselves into not only one of the world’s largest companies, but also a verb.  You don’t get much cooler than that.

Steve Ballmer, successor to Bill Gates as CEO at Microsoft, certainly didn’t get the memo and he not only lost his job as a result, Microsoft lost their position at the top of the hill.  They’re now not only worth less than Google (by about a hundred billion dollars, give or take a few billion), but they also relinquished a market dominance that was as astonishing as it was stifling.  It doesn’t matter how good Nadella is from now on, they’ll never get back there.

MYOB and Microsoft are not alone.  In fact, most established software companies have still yet to realise that their legacy software product lines are dead.  They continue to pump vast resources into their flailing products in an ongoing effort to re-animate them and recapture past successes.  Many of them will tell you that ‘our products run on the cloud’ as they feebly host their legacy applications on behalf of customers, but the smell of death permeates.

These firms suffer from what’s known as the innovator’s dilemma, where previously great companies place too much emphasis on the status quo, allowing themselves to be blinded to technological shifts that eventually render them redundant.

Legacy software providers simply see software as a service as a method for delivering applications, but this misses the point entirely.

Yes, delivering apps over the web is extremely efficient and cost effective, but that’s only one part of the picture.

Delivering apps over the web also allows companies such as Panacea to innovate as was never before possible.  Instead of software release cycles that are measured in months or years, our release cycles (known as ‘sprints’ these days) are measured in weeks.

Instead of spending long months designing and deploying features that our customers may not want or need, we’re constantly releasing incremental improvements to Panacea and, most important, getting customer feedback from the second that these updates ship.

Rather than large, complex batches that are perennially late, over-budget and full of bugs, our software is delivered continuously in small, inoffensive, but effective, batches.  Each one making Panacea a little better than it was before.

This incremental approach (called ‘lean’ or ‘agile’) is a huge driver for innovation and customer satisfaction.

Unlike our legacy competitors, we are free to try all of the innovative ideas that we have, many of which come directly from our customers.  Some of these don’t make it past limited pilot testing and this is a good thing.  If our pilot customers think something is stupid then there’s a very good chance that the rest of our customers will think it’s stupid too, so we’re doing them a favour by not subjecting them to it.  Our competitors, on the other hand, only find out something is stupid once they’ve baked it into their products and shipped it to their customers.  This not only damages the customer relationship, but ties up valuable development resources as the vendor tries to make the new feature less stupid in subsequent releases.  With legacy software, removing features (no matter how stupid) is typically not an option once they’ve been rolled out.

When our ideas are great, which happens from time to time, we receive instant validation and, thanks to the power of the cloud, we are able to release these brilliant new features to all of our customers, around the world, in seconds.  We can then continue building on these winning features, making them more and more valuable to our customers over time.

This approach, based on small batch sizes, rapid deployment and instantaneous, continuous customer feedback, is what drives innovation in companies such as Salesforce.com, Xero and Panacea.

It is also why cloud software is more than just a fad and why the legacy software model is already dead.

Long live the cloud!

Our Mission Explained

At Panacea our mission is to make vets more successful.

‘But why do you want to make vets more successful?  Aren’t they already successful enough?’

We get asked this every day and the question kind of misses the point.  We’re human beings – we’re never successful ‘enough’.  We always strive for more and our vet customers are no different.

Our customers hold a very important place in society – we entrust to treat the furry members of our families every day.  Farmers and breeders trust vets to help protect their livelihoods.

Panacea is developed to help vets drive improved clinical outcomes.  It has been developed from the ground up to automate and simplify clinical processes and it takes advantage of the latest tools and technologies, including AAHA clinical terms and a SOAP-based diagnostics process, to improve clinical accuracy and effectiveness.

Panacea is also developed to make vets more commercially successful.  It is a little known fact outside of the veterinary sector that, in the space of a generation, the financial returns from veterinary medicine have declined steadily to the point where being a vet has gone from one of the most financially rewarding degree-qualified professions to one of the least?  The American Veterinary Medical Association has released analysis that shows the ‘typical veterinary college graduate will earn less during his or her career than the typical bachelor’s degree holder‘.

It’s no easier to become a vet than it was 20 years ago (if anything it’s harder) and goodness knows it’s more expensive, but financial returns have continued to erode due to a variety of factors.

This phenomenon is common to the veterinary industry in all western countries, yet veterinary practice management software has hardly evolved at all to help address this problem.

Panacea changes all that.  It has unique features that make vets more efficient and more productive and that actually help protect and maximise revenue.

And this is only the beginning.

We have a number of amazing new technologies in the works.  Lots of world firsts.  Technology that will actually help vets become more successful.  Because they’re important.