Pandemic ushered in telemedicine for pets

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The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of technology to deliver health information, advice, and veterinary care for companion animals. Veterinarians offered curbside services to diagnose and treat pets. Most of the actual contact with clients involved using the telephone to communicate findings and decide on a treatment plan.

This system works well because a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is established when the pet is examined and the veterinary team is involved. Using the telephone may not be the ideal way to communicate complex medical information with clients but it gets the job done to efficiently help pets.

Our clients have been very understanding and appreciative that the veterinary team would do their jobs in all kinds of weather in the parking lot. Some pet owners even prefer staying in their vehicles while the staff performs their duties.

The digital technology of the smartphone has also proven to be most helpful and will be utilized in the future. It’s very helpful and timesaving to give “tele-advice” once pictures and videos have been texted to the veterinary team.

A decision can be made as to whether a pet needs veterinary attention based on an electronic consultation. This is called “teletriage” and helps to determine if a case requires immediate referral to a veterinarian. It is necessary that a VCPR has been established before treatment can be recommended for a particular patient. It is now becoming possible to have an e-consult with your veterinarian and a specialist simultaneously. This gives the client a great opportunity to be in on the conversation and help to make decisions for their pet.

Of course, some of these transactions will be monetized depending on the time spent, specific procedures, and skill level of the health care team member.

Demand for telehealth is rising and veterinary practices will adapt to the needs of clients and pets. The goal is not to replace in-person office call consultation and examinations but to improve access and convenience. Examples are: teletriage, postsurgical follow-ups, hospice care, client education and specialist consults. Some clients may even prefer curbside service and telemedicine.

The texts and emails are much more prevalent and veterinary hospitals will meet the demand for strong client relationships through telemedicine.