The veterinary community has recently seen significant change. How can telehealth and virtual veterinary care pave the way in the future of animal care?
One of the most important takeaways for me as I have been practicing telehealth for the past two years is that clients really embrace it. As telehealth for humans continues to evolve and become utilized by more and more people every day, it is only a matter of time before pet owners demand access to virtual care for their pets. This is likely significantly accelerated now, due to the prevalence of video conferencing being used in nearly every aspect of current life, and the comfort that all demographics have now developed with communication via video chat. So, is virtual veterinary care the way of the future?
The significance of a transition to virtual veterinary care
It is so important that we as veterinary professionals remain at the forefront of the evolution of animal health by embracing virtual veterinary care as an extension of the services we are already providing. When you think about it, most, if not all veterinarians are already providing telehealth in some form, but the vast majority are not being compensated for their time. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of calls and emails coming into clinics increased dramatically and continuing to provide all of these consultations at no cost to the pet owner became unsustainable for many.
One of the many advantages of an all-inclusive telehealth platform is that payments are handled through the system, alleviating some of the workload placed on reception staff, freeing up your phone lines, and avoiding any misunderstanding on the part of the client, as they agree to the cost up front.
During these challenging times, clients of our practice have been and continue to be very appreciative of the fact that we can continue to administer care, often from the comfort and safety of their homes. Post-COVID, we are eager to continue to use telehealth as an extension of the regular care that we provide. In some instances (i.e. post-operative re-evaluation, behavioral discussion), a visit to the clinic may not be necessary. In some (i.e. cat losing weight), a visit is required. However, virtual veterinary care can initiate a conversation with these pet owners, informing them, answering their questions and allaying their fears. Empowering clients with information prior to the physical appointment can be key to improving compliance, as the client then comes in with a plan in mind, an estimate in hand, and a clear idea as to what our thoughts and concerns are.
How can you add telehealth into your practice?
Many clinics are looking for ways to add telehealth into their veterinary practice, but many platforms require the use of a third-party app, rather than leveraging the familiarity of that clinic’s own brand and integrating into a clinic’s existing website. The Smart.Vet brand is hidden from clients, a reason why numerous veterinary practices have chosen to use it. This telehealth platform is designed to look like a part of your website, essentially a simple extension of your clinic’s services.
The Smart.Vet platform has the ability to be custom branded to every clinic, so it’s promoting your clinic branding. It’s easy-to-navigate framework also means that you can spend more time taking care of patients. All of this can be set up in as little as 24–48 hours. Smart.Vet’s technology has been reviewed by the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (Canada) and the company currently serves clients in a variety of countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K.
Contrary to misconceptions that telehealth removes the personal touch from interactions with clients, we have never been more connected to our client base than we are now. I am very optimistic about the future of digital interactions in veterinary medicine and would like to encourage veterinarians to take an active role in shaping the evolution of virtual veterinary care by initiating discussions within your practices and speaking with your regulatory bodies.
With 16 years under her belt as a practising Canadian veterinarian, 14 of those as a practice owner, Sharon keenly understands the challenges facing clinics and veterinary staff. She is excited to bring her expertise to the table to help provide solutions in a way that benefits the veterinary community as a whole.