Dr Charlie Barton, BVSc CertVOphthal MRCVS
Director, Virtual Recall
From 25th May 2018, data protection as we know it is undergoing the biggest overhaul since the Data Protection Act was created in 1998. If you think it won’t affect us Vets, or you’ll get round to it some time later, then I’d recommend you read on.
The General Data Protection Regulation is a new EU directive that will dictate how we need to manage all our data within a practice. It covers any personal data that you may keep about clients as well as staff – there is a good checklist available from the ICO at www.ico.org.uk (who you should be registered with, by the way).
The GDPR, like its predecessor, typically doesn’t cover any information related to animals, so worrying about clinical records or an errant x-ray falls under the RCVS code rather than EU law; but, don’t forget how easy it is to transfer sensitive files around these days– we’re all making use of email, USB flash drives and CD to send important clinical information and it is still essential that this data is handled securely. A hip x-ray from a breeder’s top Labrador left on a USB stick on reception, (or your assistant’s mobile phone they lost at the pub) could still land you in trouble if it gets into the wrong hands. From a business point of view, just as importantly though you need to consider how you store and share client information. Nowhere is this more evident than gaining consent for client communications.
Whether you only send out a single digital annual vaccination reminder, or maximise your marketing with monthly flea compliance reminders, e-newsletters and offers, you will now need to ensure that all your clients are positively opted in for communications. It seems unlikely at this point that we will be able to rely on implied consent, which enables us to get around these barriers when marketing to our clients at present. Nor will your neatly filed terms and conditions that you have diligently got all your clients to sign up to – consent will not be allowed to be bundled in this fashion. That tick box in your PMS that you’ve trained all your receptionists to use – great, if you’ve got the paper trail to show a positive opt-in (and not an opt out). Bounced email addresses? Incorrect mobile numbers? Storing old or obsolete data will also be against the rules, so you’ll need a system for cleaning this data.
So, here’s the plan: From now on, get every client who comes through the door to check all their contact information and sign a piece of paper that they opt in to communications. Then update those details on your PMS. You could do this manually of course; train up all the front of house staff (don’t forget the locum who registered a client on the weekend). Give someone the job of deciphering the writing and inputting it accordingly.
Alternatively, why not be a little smarter about it. Use smart IT systems to request this information from clients before they arrive at the practice in a fluster. Using systems from Virtual Recall, you will be able to send out smart client contact forms, enabling clients to verify or edit details and digitally submit their consent. No paper and no stress. We’ll be able to see who has and hasn’t been offered a contact update in the past and manage the process seamlessly.
This is actually a great opportunity to improve your database by gathering more mobile numbers and email addresses. Now is the time to really get that database that you can use to your full advantage and communicate with clients as they want. iRecall®’s dynamic delivery systems can identify incorrect mobile numbers, and redirect to email or post, whilst at the same time reporting these back to you to modify. Our postal reminders offer digital contact detail submissions, maximising the potential whilst ensuring all bases are covered.
The explanation of the e-privacy regulations have yet to be fully extrapolated, and of course we’ll be keeping you updated with the latest information. Just sign up below so that we can keep emailing you, please.