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A Guide to Purchasing New Veterinary Software

Dr. Ivan Zak Mar 6, 2015 7:05:00 PM veterinary software

 SaaS or web-based technologies on demand.

Summary: This article outlines basic features of the most common Electronic Medical Record veterinary software products on the market and compares cloud-based to server-based business models. This article can serve as a practical guide for selecting your next Practice Management software.

 Dr. Ivan Zakharenkov, DVM, BS© 2016 Veterinarium Corp 

veterinary softwareWhat is SaaS?

SaaS stands for Software as a Service,  but for some of us (and certainly for me a few years ago) even this interpretation means nothing. Now after years of research and participation in software projects, I have determined what SaaS is, how it’s made, and identified its benefits and disadvantages.

Why are so many software products now being shipped as SaaS and not as server-based programs? The answer is the era of innovation in which we live today.

The cost of broadband is decreasing by 50 percent every year, the speed of connectivity increases by 20 percent to 30 percent every year, and the reliability of connection is at a point where we trust the Internet with so many aspects of our life (e.g., banking, dating, renting, booking trips, photos, and data storage).

We have been using cloud-based technology for a long time, but being a pragmatic group of customers as we veterinarians are, we seem to be a little behind on web-based medical records.

So, let’s review and compare the properties of old-school, server-based products with the new web-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software available on the market today.

 Initial cost of the product

During my research, I found that the average cost of the initial server-based product is between $5,000 and $30,000. This amount usually includes a representative on-site, training sessions, disruption of the current workflow, and additional training for those who missed initial training.

In contrast, web-based EMR software is normally available with a 14–30 day free trial, you don’t have to download anything, you receive a trial login, and you’re ready to go! Upon expiration, you can purchase logins for all personnel in your practice (about 100$/month per login). Sometimes, the price is based on the total number of logins at the same time without personal passwords for all staff.

Many pragmatic veterinarians refuse to pay monthly fees. They prefer to pay only once and to own the product, but think about the vendor’s philosophy: once you sell something, you don’t care about it as much as if you were selling it every month, which this leads to:


After the initial sale, server-based companies usually try to sign you to a “service contract” for 24/7 support. The price for this contract ranges between $1,000 and $3,000 per year—almost the price for an annual subscription for a web-based application!

Think about it. What exactly are you paying for?

If their software does not work properly, you are paying them to fix it! Shouldn’t they pay for problems with their product? Isn’t that ironic to say the least?

That’s why Software as a Service makes complete sense. You are paying a monthly fee for the service, updates, training, and support every month at a very competitive price, and the price you are paying really depends on your workload. If you have three veterinarians in the clinic, you are generating three times more revenue. Accordingly, you can afford to have logins for three veterinarians.


Every time an update is shipped by a server-based company, you have to download it from the web, shut down all the computers in the clinic, and reinstall it on all computers. (Some products are doing it remotely for you these days.)

With web-based applications, you don’t even know about updates unless they are a new feature and the software provider provides you with a link to a video tutorial. This practice is in contrast with some server-based companies, which charge for training on how to use their product.

Bug fixes

”Bugs” are present in every software product.

Similar to updates, if something happens with the software on the local server, you first have to determine whether there is a problem with the computer or the actual application. Most of the time you don’t have an IT person in the building, and it is really hard to assign an employee to go through the restoration and installation process on a busy day at the clinic.

With SaaS, depending on the complexity of the bug, the problem can usually be fixed right away, or it may take some time for developers to research, but you don’t have to waste your time and/or staff time. Everything is done behind the scenes. Plus, there is no interruption in workflow.

Initial hardware

Most server-based EMR software requires a server, a “hardwire” network in the building, and computes for each station with specific parameters necessary to run their application.  All this could cost between $5,000 for a single veterinarian practice and $75,000 for a large referral hospital.

With a web-based application, there is no need for the local network, specific computers, or servers. You can log in from any computer (whether it’s your laptop through Wi-Fi or an old computer left over from the previous software).

Reliability and security of the server

In a server–based case, you have to rely on one of your veterinary technicians with some IT skills to install your hardware, or in a better case scenario, a vendor company, which is rarely available after hours (which is crucial for emergency hospitals).

In case there is physical damage to the server, you will have a significant problem with your data and medical records.

With web-based EMR software, all the data is stored on the cloud. Your practice can experience a flood, fire, or even a tornado, but your data will always remain on the cloud.

Major companies that provide these services (also called PaaS—Platform as a Service) are more than reliable, since these companies are doing a very specific task—storing and sorting your data.


Usually, you have to back up a day’s or a week’s worth of records onto your external hard drive or burn hundreds of CDs. With SaaS, there is no need for backup; your data is safe in the cloud.

Availability on mobile devices

Some server-based products introduced integration of the iPad , but after a short trial, I realized that this works only within the hospital as long as you are on the same WiFi as your server, which leads to:

Remote access

Most server-based products require your physical presence in the building (although it is changing in the near future).

With a cloud application, you can go home after a busy day at work, relax, and finish your medical records after dinner with your family.

Your manager and bookkeeper don’t have to be physically in the building to make changes to pricing or issue payroll for employees.

What if the Internet goes down?

This is the most common question I hear from veterinarians. If you remember the last time this happened, you will realize that in the past year you probably lost electricity because of a storm or other natural disaster but not the Internet.

With availability on mobile devices, you can always continue with your workflow using cellular data as a backup.

Connectivity to other equipment and external labs

Some server-based products provide connection with external laboratories and equipment, but this has to be written every time for new hardware on the market.

SaaS applications use a so-called API (Application Program Interface), which is a special protocol that allows different equipment “to talk with each other.” Most cloud-based applications are prepared to exchange data with all new lab equipment and external laboratories on the market.

This article has summarized things you should consider when buyng new Veterinary Software. The chart below can help you choose what to buy.

You may also want to consider whether you want to be a conservative pragmatist or a progressive early adopter.


Table 1. Comparative categories for software products: 


Server-based software


Initial purchase


$100/month after a free trial


Annual fee $3,000–$5,000

Included in $100/ month


Installing on all computers in the hospital

In the background without being noticed

Bug fixes

Support and reinstallations

Online in the background

Initial hardware


None; any computer with Internet or mobile

Server security

Protected by your lock

Protected by Google, Amazon, Microsoft

Data backup

Onto hard copies or external hard drives

On servers in the cloud

Available on mobile devices

Not likely


What if the Internet connection fails

Nothing happens

Some will retain data; some will be on the cloud

Ease of adoption

Usually takes a team to transfer the records and train the staff

Slow transition is possible since you don’t have to invest in hardware and dedicate time


Hard to implement without all components

Log in and try in two minutes

Remote access


From anywhere and any device


$1,000–$3,000/ year



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