Michael J. Watts, DVM | Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care
We chose to add Oncura Partners to our practice in order to make diagnostic ultrasound technology more accessible, efficient, and accurate within our three doctor practice. I have been pleased with the decision and would like to share our experiences.
Prior to upgrading our technology, we had a functional ten year old digital black and white ultrasound system. I was the only veterinarian who was proficient in the use of the technology. When I wasn't in the practice, patients would either have to wait for my return or would be referred. I had sent one of my associates for expensive and time consuming training to learn how to ultrasound. However, in a busy private practice, I found it impossible to give her enough time for supervised practice on actual patients. Early on, it takes a lot of hand holding to get proficient even in finding normal structures— much less in identifying abnormalities. I also felt certain parts of my own skills degrading over time, like finding adrenal glands. With more experience, I also became better at appreciating subtle abnormalities that I had increasing trouble interpreting. As a result of all these factors, we typical I y only performed two or three complete abdominal scans each month.
The traditional model we were following also became increasingly inefficient. I could often see a tumor or other abnormality right away, but still ended up spending an entire hour simply getting all the views and measurements I needed to satisfy the standard of practice for a properly performed ultrasound study. It frequently occurred to me that I could be seeing patients and generating additional income rather than monotonously measuring kidney length or duodenal thickness.
Oncura has allowed me to train and "certify" my other veterinarians and several of my experienced Iicensed veterinary technicians. These staff members have embraced the learning opportunity. The onsite training and included practice scans on normal pets gave them the confidence that they could get all the images necessary for a complete scan. The remote assistance available on every scan gives them the "training wheels" that they need and that I am often too busy to provide personally. As a result, we are actually doing many more scans— typically 8-10 a month and increasing.
Personally, having my LVTs perform the scans and having a specialist double check the findings has greatly increased my professional satisfaction in offering ultrasonography in my practice. After the patient is prepped and the equipment is set up, I come in and perform a quick "once over" to identify areas I would like to highlight for my technician to image particularly carefully. I give the client my initial impressions and explain that the final report will come from a specialist. I go on to seeing other appointments. In one hour, I can now generate the income that previously took me two hours. I have enhanced my own and my staff's job satisfaction. In addition, I have improved our image with clients since now our scans include my interpretation as well as a specialist's.
Due to our location, we have also successfully developed a bit of referral income from our Oncura Partners technology. Pet owners in our area have to drive 60-90 minutes to see a cardiologist or get an ultrasound from a specialist. We now offer surrounding practice a referral ultrasound service where one of our technicians performs the abdominal ultrasound or echocardiogram, submits the scan to Oncura, and then sends the referring practice the report. The referring practices handle all the communication about the report with their clients and have been willing to send us their patients.
In conclusion, Oncura Partners has been good for our patients, clients, staff, veterinarians, and our bottom line. The initial investment was a bit higher than last time I purchased an ultrasound machine, but the increased usage we have experienced more than offset that cost.