Supporting Quality Veterinary Education and Faculty Experience with Digitail

Established in 1992, the University of Namibia (UNAM) is the country’s largest higher education institution, consistently ranked among Africa’s best. It is a unique and diverse organization with over 31,000 students from 41 countries. Its School of Veterinary Medicine was established in 2016 and offers a six-year Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine program following the World Organization of Animal Health guidelines. In addition, the school offers postgraduate studies (MSc and PhD) in various fields, including veterinary pathology, veterinary parasitology, One Health, veterinary infectious diseases, and other clinical fields. 

Over the years, the Veterinary Academic Hospital of the School of Veterinary Medicine expanded to include eight units: main pharmacy, clinic, isolation ward, production animal section including a bovine theatre, equine section, small animal theatre, outpatient facility, and a wildlife unit. Pursuing plans for continued growth and transformation, university leadership embraced the idea of improving the school’s technological foundation to streamline operations, foster administrative efficiency, and cultivate a more dynamic learning environment.

Challenges of a fragmented structure

Situated on two separate campuses, all eight units of the veterinary school operated independently using a server-based practice management system (PIMS). The outpatient data was housed on a separate server at the main campus. As clients moved between facilities, staff had to gather their registration, ID, vaccination records, and treatment history. Due to this decentralized setup, clients were required to submit this information on each occasion.

“It was like working on two separate cell phones simultaneously,” says Brenden Tjizu, Hospital Administrator of the Outpatients Unit at the Veterinary Academic Hospital. “It was a lot of paperwork for our team, and we ended up creating so many duplicates because of this.”

Operating disconnected systems posed challenges for the faculty staff as well. Dr. Emelia Nambinga, Junior Clinician at UNAM Veterinary Academic Hospital, shares that it was hard not to have a clear view of what other clinics were doing. She explains, “We had to resort to using TeamViewer to log into hospital systems or request them to email the required information. Managing ten different usernames and passwords to access essential systems became quite a juggling act.”

Another issue with a server-based system was the necessity for a weekly backup. In cases where the responsible individual was on leave, they had to share their password with someone else for backup procedures. This practice posed security and efficiency concerns.

Generating daily sales reports was also a tedious task. The management team had to log into each unit’s PIMS to gather the required information. The compilation of the reports itself demanded additional time and effort to present the findings in an organized and understandable format. This process not only consumed a significant amount of time but also left room for potential errors, making it clear that an improved and more efficient system was required.

Looking for the right partner

“We had two key requirements for the new software,” tells Brenden. “It had to be web-based, and we needed to have access to online support at all times. We rejected one system because it didn’t offer support outside the U.S., even though it otherwise met our criteria.” 

He shares that another important factor for the new system was its broad adoption within the industry: “As a teaching hospital, it was crucial for us to select software that is already widely embraced by veterinary professionals. This way, when our students enter the real world, they are already familiar with it. Most practitioners we consulted were using Digitail.”

The final factor that tipped the scales in favor of Digitail was its integration with IDEXX Laboratory systems. In the past, staff members were required to print out laboratory results from the machine and then manually upload them to the PIMS. Having the two systems connected and integrated would save the team valuable time and resources.

Embracing new efficiencies

“We set up the school’s departments as separate units or clinics in Digitail,” explains Marlene Du Toit, Head of International Customer Success and Support at Digitail. “Now all the patient information, medical records, appointments, and other information are accessible remotely from any device with an internet connection.”

Now, each facility — whether it’s the small animal clinic, production, or equine — has the capability to manage its stock independently, while school leadership can see the big picture across all units in real time. It reduces frustration and potential mistakes while allowing for high-level control over inventory.

Dr. Alma Raath, Lecturer, Companion Animal Clinical Studies, emphasizes the significant time-saving benefits of centralized stock control from the main pharmacy: “With Digitail, we can effortlessly monitor inventory, as it automatically calculates prices and tracks stock levels in one centralized location. This convenience translates to a 40% reduction in time spent maintaining consistent product descriptions across clinics and introducing new stock items in various hospital units. It also allows us to avoid revenue leakage because inconsistent pricing and inaccurate medication descriptions can cause lost profits.” 

Brenden also highlights how the new functionality streamlines financial reporting. “Thanks to Digitail, we now have real-time access to daily sales reports and other analytics through comprehensive dashboards, all in one place and accessible from any location. It saves us at least an hour every week.”

The transition, expected to take a month, happened in just two weeks. “The migration went smoothly because we had the Digitail team by our side, onsite, the whole time,” says Brenden. “Having access to support at our fingertips is truly remarkable. In the past, when I identified duplicates, such as a client’s name spelled in four different ways across our systems, I had to initiate a series of emails to the relevant facilities, requesting corrections. It took a long time and was a cumbersome process. However, with Digitail, I can simply request a merge, and it’s resolved within minutes.”

Augmenting the education experience

Brenden shares that the biggest surprise was how quickly the students adopted the system. “I expected them to struggle a lot,” he admits. “But when we showed Digitail to the first group, they started using it right away, even with no prior training. Because it is so modern and intuitive.”

Dr. Nambinga supports this observation and adds that because Digitail’s user-friendly interface is similar to other software tools students use every day, there is a short learning curve. She highlights how the interactive environment enhances the learning experience. “Record collaboration and remote access are some of the best features. Students and lecturers can work on the same record at the same time, make revisions, and leave comments. They have the freedom to do it at home, from their phone, or at the office — wherever they like. It’s revolutionary.”

She continues, “The students love taking notes because they don’t need to write a lot, but at the same time, they learn better because the SOAP templates are always in front of them. All the necessary steps become imprinted in their minds.

“These advancements equip students with modern tech skills essential for their future careers, aligning the educational experience with the evolving industry trends,” Brenden continues.

He also points out the positive changes in the patient journey, as the medical staff can access the system online from any device. “Digitail’s consent forms, SOAP templates, and billing have brought about significant efficiencies,” he explains. “Previously, clients had to receive treatment in one facility and then pay their bill at another. Staff had to manually create receipts and record them in the PIMS. Now, they can generate an invoice in Digitail, even on the go, and email it directly to the client. From patient intake to discharge, everything is smooth and quick.”

Dr. Nambinga emphasizes, “We save up to 10 minutes during each consultation thanks to these improvements. Another valuable feature is Digitail’s native automatic reminders. They help ensure clients don’t miss vaccinations and other essential treatments while easing our staff’s workload by reducing phone calls. Furthermore, lecturers benefit from a better work-life balance with remote access to the system, eliminating the necessity to stay after hours to review students’ work.”

Digital transformation for a brighter future

With Digitail, the UNAM School of Veterinary Medicine made a significant leap toward productivity, unity, and modernization. From overcoming the challenges of a fragmented organizational setup to embracing new efficiencies in patient care and education, the journey illustrates the positive impact of technology on staff and student experiences.
The school is relatively young, and it continues to grow. “Our plans include moving the isolation and surgical departments under one roof on the main campus,” shares Brenden. “With Digitail, we became one cohesive organization where everything is unified and standardized. We built a foundation for future expansion, improved efficiencies for the staff, modern student education, and enhanced patient care.”