Caleb Frankel, VMD, Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center, Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Think your practice treats only small animals? Think again. Let this serve as your formal introduction to a new (larger) species hiding somewhere in every veterinary practice.
Meet the Big Data Monster. He has an insatiable appetite for the endless information scraps constantly shed by the senses of your computers and mobile devices and, like him or not, he is here to stay, cozying up to every company, government, and organization in the world.
In case you are wondering, “Big Data” is the buzziest term since, well, bees. Like many trendy terms, the phrase itself does not say what it actually means, which, in a nutshell, is the unwieldy amount of information produced through humans’ interactions with machines.1
Smartphones, websites, tablets, wearable devices, and even your car all have hidden skills, gathering data that is produced every waking moment. Think what you shop for, whom you email, where you drive, what you search for, how much you exercise, with whom you interact, what you read—the list goes on.2
Although the Big Data Monster can be intimidating, he is not necessarily bad. In fact, when you learn how to train your practice’s Monster, he will become a less cute, more useful version of your practice cat. So, how does it affect you?
I could write an entire article on learning about your clients via social media analytics. I could also force you to read electrolyte physiology for 8 hours.
But I will spare you the nap and implore you to learn these 3 simple tools.
Also, consider SurveyMonkey.com, an internet staple for generating client surveys. Actionable analytics are provided for free.
Need a great resource to guide your learning? Explore the practical veterinary-specific social media lessons from SnoutSchool.com, including a recent related blog post.3
A useful fountain of information is likely locked within your practice management software just waiting to be tapped. You probably already use the software to track today’s “in” metrics, such as average client transactions and team production numbers.
But, have you tried running reports to learn where your clients come from, how much they spend, how many have pet insurance, or how many pets they own?
What about compliance reports, such as the number of clients who have not purchased heartworm treatment this year or vaccinated their pet? What about the current number of active clients compared with last year?
Staffing decisions can also be made through similar analytics. If you offer weekend or night hours, be sure to track shift-specific appointment and production numbers to optimize staffing during these times.
(See Read All About It for more details on the data that can be mined from practice management software.4)
An explosion of population health data will likely mark the next 10 years. A few sources of great information are already popping up, including Banfield, which is churning out some interesting data at stateofpethealth.com. Find out whether your state offers online access to reportable diseases such as rabies. Also, explore IDEXX’s kittytest.com, which can provide interesting geographic information on feline heartworm, FIV, and FeLV infections.
Lifelearn’s new Watson-powered decision support tool, Sofie, may also offer interesting health data, such as location-based disease search correlations, if adoption is widespread.
Watch for up-and-coming veterinary practice management software offerings that should push population data reporting to the next level.5
Although intimidating, the concept of big data is likely here to stay. The good news? The Big Data Monster can become your practice’s new best friend.
Start small and explore these resources. Before you know it, you will be improving your practice quality, efficiency, and client satisfaction by leveraging the data that already surround you.
Read All About It
Editor’s note: Dr. Caleb Frankel is a consultant for LifeLearn and a technology lecturer for IDEXX. He can be contacted at VMDtechnology.com.
1. Big data. Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data; accessed Nov 2014.
2. If you think big data’s big now, just wait. Miller R. Techcrunch (2014); http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/10/big-data-bound-to-get-really-really-big-with-the-internet-of-things; accessed Nov 2014.
3. A veterinary hospital’s quick guide to facebook insights & analytics. Lambert D. Snoutschool.com; http://www.snoutschool.com/a-veterinary-hospitals-quick-guide-to-facebook-insights-analytics; accessed Dec 2014.
4. Big data goes small. Miller C. Trends Magazine Sep:24-29, 2014.
5. Vetcloud hopes to unlock the dormant data in veterinary clinics around the world. Etherington D. Techcrunch (2014); http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/29/vetcloud-hopes-to-unlock-the-dormant-data-in-veterinary-clinics-around-the-world; accessed Nov 2014.
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