Newsletter Signup

Get Pick the Brain by Email

12 Reasons to Switch Your Hospital From Paper to Digital Treatment Sheets

12 Reasons to Switch Your Hospital From Paper to Digital Treatment Sheets

Big, small, corporate, or independent, most Instinct hospitals have one thing in common: They are converting from paper flow sheets to digital treatment sheets. We frequently get asked Why?

As in, why stop using paper veterinary treatment sheets in the first place?

The question is often accompanied by statements like “We’re too busy” or “Our patients are too critical” to do things electronically.

These are fair points.

Veterinary hospital software often comes with a steep learning curve and can be time-consuming to implement.

And on the surface, paper is weirdly compelling:

📜 It feels nice
📜 It’s old-timey—in a cool way.
📜 There’s no learning curve.
📜 It has a simple “user interface.”
📜 It’s readily available and travels well.
📜 It gives you something to literally hold on to.

I’ll be the first to admit that paper has some benefits, and we think about that a lot while designing Instinct.

But there are two sides to every story. When software is thoughtfully designed, it’s easy to make the case for going paperless.

12 Reasons Every Team Should Go Digital

12. Pandemic Mode 😷

It's a brave new world out there. One uncomfortable fact is that paper is unnecessarily bringing the humans in your hospital in repeated and closer contact. That's not exactly ideal right now.

11. Visibility from Anywhere 👀

Ever lost a treatment sheet? True story: I once dumpster dove for one.

But switching to electronic treatment sheets is about more than just keeping records safe (and out of the dumpster). Once you go digital, you can provide optimal patient care from anywhere. Manage your patients and treatment plans at a safe pandemic distance or even home—anywhere with an internet connection.

10. Checklist Manifesto Medicine ✅

Digital systems make it easy to turn treatment sheets into checklists, following medicine’s humble yet crucial Checklist Manifesto movement.

With Instinct, you can easily create checklist templates. For example, you could create a Discharge Checklist and apply it to your digital treatment sheet with one click, ensuring your team is reminded to remove the IV catheter, clean the patient, confirm medications are ready, and more.

9. Handwriting ✍

Medical errors and efficiency losses due to legibility issues are no laughing matter. In human health, medical errors are now thought to be a leading cause of death.1 Illegible handwriting and transcription errors account for an estimated 61% of medication errors.2,3

8. Save the Planet 🌎

What’s better than recycling endless piles of paper? Not having any paper to recycle! When you add up all the costs of pens, highlighters, cage clipboards, and paper/printing, going green takes on a double meaning (ie, 💵).

7. Capture Charges Automatically 💰

Even the best practices are estimated to lose roughly 10% to 30% of gross revenue from services that are performed but never make it to the patient’s bill.4,5

With a high-quality digital system, this problem vanishes. Many Instinct hospitals report they have made over $1 million dollars annually in charge capture since installing. 💥

Instinct even has a live audit view and can push charges to your practice management software.

6. Built-In Decision Support  🔬

A high-quality digital solution doesn’t just enhance your workflow. If you are going to take on the effort of going digital, you should have access to what human health calls “decision support.”

For example, Instinct comes with Plumb’s built in so your team can reference drug info at the point of treatment. Other tools (also built in) can help teams make better decisions about drug doses, interactions, or formulations, and even predict the cost of a bill based on your care plan.

5. See the Bird’s-Eye View 🦅

When treatment sheets are in a pile or hanging on cages, it’s hard to see the big picture of what’s happening in the hospital.

Once you go digital, you can hang a TV screen and project your own version of mission control so you can see wait times, make staffing decisions, and monitor treatment status as patients come and go.

4. Analytics Like You’ve Never Seen 📊

I’d argue the most important part of a patient’s care data has been locked on our paper treatment sheets for… well, ever.

Once you go paperless, a world of opportunity opens up for medical, workflow, and financial data mining. Wait-time reporting and staffing suggestions based on past caseloads is just the start.

3. Better Medical Records 📋

When you go paperless, medical record-keeping will naturally improve via the elimination of handwriting.

But there are many more inherent improvements, such as the standardization of how teams write and communicate orders on your care plans as well as the ability to require notes when completing treatments. Another example is full and automated staff accountability.

With Instinct, we track every action users make when they add/edit/discontinue orders and log it as part of the legal medical record.  

2. Staff Efficiency and Happiness 🤩

One of the things we hear over and over from new hospitals is that we bought the doctors and veterinary nurses hours back every day.

With digital treatment sheets, you’ll never rewrite a daily care sheet again—and that’s just the start. With a thoughtfully designed solution in your hospital, built by an expert team with attention to detail and emphasis on  speed and efficiency, employee job satisfaction will actually improve.

1. Safer and More Thorough Patient Care 🧡

In the end, this is why we’re all here, right? In human health, it's estimated that nearly 2 jumbo jets worth of patients may die every day due to medical mistakes.6

In animal health, we likely dabble in similar statistics, but we don’t have the data tracking to know for sure. Digital solutions offer extensive opportunities to improve patient care and outcomes using calculators, safety warnings (high/low dose alerts), new staff training with “student mode,” last dose given alerts, and much more.

When you add in the ability to make care more thorough, eliminate transcription and handwriting errors, and confirm details while treating (eg, reference Plumb’s without leaving Instinct), digitization of treatment sheets should be a no-brainer for any modern veterinary center.  

Sign up for our newsletter and watch for forthcoming brain picks on workflow optimization, including a guide to implementing digital flow sheets, including what land mines to watch for, how to overcome the most difficult challenges, how to choose your solution, and other tips for wild success. 👏


  1. Jacob Sunshine, Nicholas Meo, Nicholas J. Kassebaum, et al, “Association of Adverse Effects of Medical Treatment With Mortality in the United States,” JAMA Network Open, (Jan 2019).
  2. Center for the Advancement of Health, “Computerized Doctors’ Orders Reduce Medication Errors,” ScienceDaily, (Jun 2007).
  3. Tatyana A Shamliyan, Sue Duval, Jing Du, Robert L Kane, “Just What the Doctor Ordered. Review of the Evidence of the Impact of Computerized Physician Order Entry System on Medication Errors,” Health Services Research, (Feb 2008).
  4. Michael Cavanaugh, “AAHA State of the Veterinary Profession,” American Animal Hospital Association, (Oct 2013).
  5. Heather Prendergast, “Interpreting Profit and Loss Statements,” presented at Four Corners Veterinary Symposium.
  6. Tait Shanafelt, Christine A. Sinsky, Stephen Swensen, “Preventable Deaths in American Hospitals,” NEJM Catalyst, (Jan 2017).