Telehealth makes sense to many veterinarians conceptually, but the practical applications may not always be clear. Options for day-to-day practice range from mobile apps to programs that integrate with practice management software. They all have this in common: Each requires implementation and promotion. In other words, no telehealth platform will be successful unless your practice commits to integrating it and encouraging clients to use it.
- What they do: Provide a repository for patient information that's open to the entire veterinary team.
- How they work: Subscription service, some with an overall practice fee and others prorated based on the number of participating doctors in a practice.
- Benefit to practice: Streamline communication among team members and ensure each member has insights into the pet's case, including which information has been shared with the pet owner.
- Benefit to pet owner: No matter which team member the client speaks with, that team member knows the latest case info.
- What to watch out for: Some portals require manual data entry, while others sync up with practice management software. Regardless, a human must input information in order for it to be shared via the portal.
"[No] telehealth platform will be successful unless your practice commits to integrating it and encouraging clients to use it."
- What they do: Enable visual consultation for patient health assessments, which can be especially useful after surgery. Also can be used to evaluate bodily fluids to determine if they should be saved for further diagnostics.
- How they work: Using a smart phone or computer video connection, the client shows the veterinarian the surgical or lameness site, for example.
- Benefit to veterinarian: Can evaluate how patient is healing or responding to stimuli in the home environment. May be able monitor behavior problems that don't manifest in-clinic. Also encourages client compliance.
- Benefit to pet owner: Pet may not need to be transported back to clinic, which decreases stress for the pet and owner. Can capture intermittent issues that may not be seen during a single veterinary visit. May allow pet owners in remote locations to receive veterinary services that wouldn't be available otherwise.
- What to watch out for: The client may still need to bring the pet into to the clinic for further diagnostics or therapy, so setting expectations accordingly is important for client satisfaction.
- What they do: Devices like smart collars allow for general evaluation of overall well-being, as well as monitoring of patient heartrate, respiration and temperature for post-surgical or critical care patients. Devices that also can monitor ECG, blood pressure, pulse oximeter and other parameters are being developed for human medicine, so they may make their way to veterinary medicine soon.
- How they work: Collars have accelerometers built in that track actionable activity and either record it or send it to connected devices, such as smart phones.
- Benefit to veterinarian: Can monitor indices in the home environment to get a more realistic picture of the patient's well-being without external influences like stress.
- Benefit to pet owner: Allows pet owner to take an active role in monitoring the well-being of their pet without the need to make frequent trips into the practice.
- What to watch out for: Quality control measures should be in place to monitor equipment and make sure it is functioning as it should be. The cost of devices may be a barrier for some owners.
- What they do: Service to handle pet owner calls after office hours or during office hours for overflow calls.
- How they work: There are different models. Some services provide nonmedical advice and triage patients to after-hour clinics if needed. Others work within the established VCPR to give advice.
- Benefit to veterinarian: Allows flexibility – plus a way to bill for services provided – while knowing pet owners and pets are taken care of in a timely manner.
- Benefit to pet owner: Give peace of mind knowing their pet is receiving the best care at the most appropriate times. Increase satisfaction thanks to 24-hour virtual service.
- What to watch out for: Evaluate the advice system's services and approach to be sure they align with practice philosophies.