Telemedicine is more than just a trend – it’s the future of veterinary care. Learn how to make the most of this technology by using the right body language and asking the right questions.
COVID-19 has brought with it a flood of changes to how we conduct the most basic tasks, and many of those changes seem to be here to stay. That’s not a bad thing, especially when it comes to telemedicine forming a vital component of veterinary care.
Even as restrictions begin to loosen, many clients still don’t feel comfortable visiting a busy vet’s office. And now that pet parents have had a crash course in telemedicine, chances are good that they’ll want to keep using those services. Now is the time to reflect: Is your team making strong connections via video conference calls? Is your clinic equipped to meet the increased demand for efficient, curbside check-ins?
It takes time to adjust, and there’s no strict deadline for having all the kinks worked out. But the quicker you can start connecting with patients online, the more likely your old clients will see you as part of their new normal.
Body language on telemedicine calls
From the very first video consultation, there are a few simple steps you can follow to make sure the appointment is a positive experience for all involved. There’s no denying that many people still experience unease on a video call, particularly with someone they don’t know.
During my time as a tele-veterinarian, I’ve discovered a couple areas of non-verbal communication that are key to a good consultation.
1. Make eye contact
When you’re looking at your laptop, look at the camera, not the screen, to simulate making eye contact with your client. It’s hard to break the habit of looking at the screen (or the miniaturized version of yourself in the corner!) but offering a friendly gaze does a lot to communicate your empathy for their pet.
2. Don’t multitask
Set aside any distractions during the call. If you need to make notes or consult a document, make sure to mention that’s what you’re doing to your client.
3. Create a quiet environment
If there’s a lot of background noise, make sure to mute yourself so your client can give their full attention to describing what’s going on with their pet.
How to ask the right questions
There are a few easy tweaks we can make during our online conversations with clients to make sure we can get the information we need.
Here are some examples of some basic questions, along with my suggestions for how they could improve to make the call more efficient.
The question: “Can you show me a bit more?” Or, “Can you zoom out?”
This is a tad vague. Hone in on what exactly it is you need to see.
Try this instead: “Can you please move the camera to the top right corner of that wound?” Or, “Are you comfortable lifting the lip to show me the gums right above his teeth?”
Also, be sure to add a positive affirmation: “Thanks! That was really helpful!”
The question: “Are any of his toes swollen?”
Your client might not know how to assess their pet’s toes. When asking a question like this, be sure to let them know how they can get you the information you need.
Try this instead: “When you squeeze slightly on each toe, one at a time, does one feel fatter than the other?”
The question: “Do you have any questions?”
It’s good to ask, but it’s best to keep this part of the call as open-ended as possible.
Try this instead: “What questions do you have for me?”
Equip your clinic for easy curbside service
Do your patients know where to park for their curbside service? Consider putting up signs, or getting a branded canopy to make it easy for them to know where to park. You probably already have this set up, but making sure to have enough transfer kennels or branded leashes will prevent longer waits out front.
No one wants to pop their pet in a kennel or hand their pet off and drive away, which is why TeleTails created TeleTails Instant. Once a client drops off their pet, a client can access a face-to-face video chat with their vet via a secure link. Teletails Instant allows clients to get real-time updates while their pet undergoes the exam.
Why telemedicine is worth it
Telemedicine has seen a boom not just because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, but because of the ease with which patients can now access expert information. Since pets are our top priority, it gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that this technology is also helping to increase their quality of life. On the more practical side, veterinary clinics who don’t use telemedicine are going to have to compete with apps that offer telemedicine services.
But keep in mind: your clients value you. Studies have shown that dog parents are willing to pay $38 more for a telemedicine appointment with their regular veterinarian than for an appointment with another veterinarian. That bears out in the statistics — veterinary clinics that offer telemedicine services are seeing huge increases in traffic.
At its core, telemedicine is a team effort between you and your client. Set your clients up for success with your telemedicine service, and you’ll ensure your clinic can keep up with the growing demand for easy-to-access veterinary care.