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Why typing veterinary medical SOAP notes is unsustainable, and frankly, outdated

· 4 min read

Having been involved in some form of veterinary medicine for over a decade now, I have seen things shift, change and grow. The move from paper records to on computers, x-ray film to digital and even the removal or reduction of on-call, after hours.

As the industry grows and betters itself, I think the way veterinarians complete their medical records needs to improve too.

Let's do the math

The typical general practice veterinarian works 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. A VIN survey completed in 2011 reported that the majority of vets are booked for 30 minute appointments, with some practices seeing patients as often as every 20 or even 15 minutes. This means that the average veterinarian is seeing anywhere from 14 to 30 appointments in a day.  Now if we assume that each appointment requires a typed medical record that takes 5 to 7 minutes to produce (if you're efficient!), that's about 20 records a day times 6 minutes... 120 minutes. 

That means doctors are spending around 2 hours per day just on their notes! That’s 2 hours per day of typing, 2 hours per day sitting in front of a screen—with sore necks, sore eyes, and tired of the tedious task of typing. 

The impact

Often due to overscheduling and under-staffing, veterinary professionals are left very little extra room in their busy schedules. I’ve seen colleagues resorting to using lunch breaks to catch up on typing notes or staying past closing time. I’ve even met some peers who reserve big chunks of their weekend for medical record catch-up!

This is not sustainable.

This does not create a healthy work-life balance, nor does it foster a culture of mental health and wellness. I believe this should not be the norm. We should be creating a healthy and sustainable workplace, where all members of the team have their time respected.

An extra two hours per day 

Imagine a world where every veterinarian had their notes done for them, automatically. Where setting aside time to type or even dictate was a thing of the past. The average veterinarian would gain back 2 hours of their work day. 

This time could be used for continuing education, personal development, a much needed break or time to reconnect with clients, patients or staff members. This means vets could spend their lunch periods actually eating their lunch instead of trying to catch up. This means vets could have the opportunity to leave work when their shift is finished.

We have to remember that the veterinary industry is full of individuals who are chronically overworked and experiencing various levels of burnout, compassion fatigue, and emotional trauma. A recent study published in 2021 says 31% of U.S. veterinarians reported experiencing depressive episodes and 17% of U.S. vets have had suicidal ideation. These statistics are incredibly heartbreaking and in desperate need of our focus. Anything that can give veterinarians a much needed break, or some time back in their day, is well earned and worth exploring. 

Obviously, documentation is not the only burden plaguing veterinarians. But it certainly isn’t helping them either, and in a world where cars can basically drive themselves, why are veterinarians still expected to be stuck writing notes for hours a day?

These statistics are one of the reasons Scribenote exists.

Scribenote was created by a veterinarian, a vet student and their closest friends and family. With direct insight into the effects that burnout has on the individual and the industry as a whole. We saw the impact that these burdensome hours of documentation had on our peers and even our very own family. Our mission is to give vets their time back and make veterinary medicine sustainable again.

Join the Scribenote movement now—and see the difference automated documentation can make!