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The technology entrepreneur's view: Keep pushing forward


COVID-19 has accelerated telemedicine and that will be a huge boon to the veterinary industry in 2021.Taylor CavanahDecember 2020
The technology entrepreneur's view: <span style="display: inline-block;">Keep pushing forward</span>

Taylor Cavanah
CEO, PetDesk

Taylor Cavanah founded PetDesk in 2013, building it to become the leading client communication software for veterinary practices. He serves on the Veterinary Virtual Care Association Advisory Board and has worked as a technology entrepreneur for 15 years.


Digital Client Service

Spring 2020: Spike in pushing out info

Historically, the veterinary industry has been slow to adopt technology. Most veterinary practices have implemented a few digital services but haven't felt the need to be cutting edge. During COVID-19, clinics are realizing how much technology can help, especially during these tough times.

They're coming to understand that the focus is not only on improving their technology, but also focusing on how that technology enables better connection with clients. For example, instead of only sending transactional, one-way messages, practices must consider how to engage in full conversations and to complete full medical triage or diagnoses through technology.

STATS

3x more PetDesk practices using two-way messaging the first two months after COVID

122 two-way messages sent per clinic per week in June compared to 50 per clinic per week pre COVID

8x more mass messages sent by PetDesk practices in March than February

33% more messages opened by clients

Fall 2020: Avoiding a backslide

When COVID-19 first hit, practices were scrambling to service clients in a world of decreased in-person interaction. Understandably, they didn't spend a lot of time thinking about how to best use digital tools and integrate them into the workflow. The danger now is that practices will go back to working the way they did before. Consumers expect digital service. If a veterinary practice goes back to pre-pandemic technology levels, clients will go elsewhere.

Rather than focus on the future state of telemedicine, each practice should focus on implementing basic proven use cases for individual services. Curbside is a great place to start. Think through every step of the process and how you can remove barriers for your team and your clients in each step, such as using two-way messaging instead of phone calls. The average curbside appointment requires more than five phone calls. That's a lot of time for practice team members to be devoted to talking on the phone. With two-way messaging, clients don't get put on hold, team members can communicate with multiple clients at once, and time per individual conversation decreases. Once your practice has optimized your curbside process, move to the next scenario, expanding technology use as you go to continue adapting to the new normal.

STATS

51% of customers prefer text-based messaging because they can multitask1

73% of customers report being satisfied with service handled via chat, versus 61% for email and 44% for phone2

Of the hospitals trying PetDesk two-way messaging for free, 84% opted into continued service

  1. "Stats: Do consumers appreciate live chat on websites?", Econsultancy, September 4, 2012. Accessed July 20, 2020.
  2. "Consumers prefer live chat for customer service: stats", Econsultancy, November 25, 2013. Accessed July 20, 2020.

Telemedicine

Spring 2020: Remote veterinary positions

More candidates have expressed an interest in working from home, and telemedicine could afford that opportunity. I just received the first request to help place a veterinarian to practice telemedicine from home, and I expect to see more jobs like that become available. While the majority of clinical practice veterinary positions will still require doctors to work in the practice to see patients, the telemedicine option is attractive to some. One candidate I recently spoke with has young children at home and was interested in a work-from-home position so she could spend less time commuting and more time with her family.

Fall 2020: Requirement for top talent

I placed a veterinarian in the telemedicine position that was open this summer, and the practice is planning to hire additional telemedicine positions once they've determined how to make the platform best work for them. However, the vast majority of veterinary positions are still traditional roles. The telehealth technology will come first. As veterinary practices adopt the technology, the telehealth positions may start to increase.

From a recruiting perspective, veterinary practices will start losing talent if they're not open to using more technology and digital tools. Top veterinary talent will be deterred from working at practices that don't evolve. Instead, they'll choose to work at a practice that not only has the technology in place but is also implementing it into workflows and improving the practitioner's work experience.

Professional Decorum

Fall 2020: Bad times don't excuse bad behavior

These are difficult times and we need to give people grace, compassion and flexibility. We're all in this together and things will go wrong for each of us – clients will need to reschedule, children will interrupt Zoom calls, technology will fail and the list goes on. Needing some forgiveness for the unexpected and unavoidable, however, is different from using the pandemic as an excuse to behave poorly and unprofessionally.

Veterinary practices tell me clients' rude behavior has increased during the pandemic. Clients are demanding to get appointments immediately, even though the practice is at full capacity. They're hurling insults at maxed out veterinarians and staff, which causes even more stress for the practice team. This is unacceptable.

In remote working situations, I've witnessed first-hand people who aren't presenting themselves professionally. They're taking calls in a loud environment or while laying in bed, they're obviously multitasking or they haven't brushed their hair. Even when working from home, people need to consider how they'll be perceived and whether their interactions will be effective

The Future

Lower-cost care

The industry is already creating new models focused on providing low-cost services, and there's value in continuing that innovation. I also encourage veterinarians to be open to working in low-cost clinics, because my biggest concern for the veterinary profession right now is layoffs in other industries. If people aren't getting paychecks, this will further fuel demand for low-cost veterinary care.

There is a market for all types of practices serving all types of pet owners. Some pet owners will pay for concierge service and the most advanced, highest level of care, while others will be interested in foundational, high-quality, low-cost care. A large percentage of pet owners don't go to the veterinarian at all, so we should continue to elevate the industry to reach all types of pet owners. Practices in each type of model will need to hire talent, so there will be jobs for veterinarians and staff in all of the models.

Some veterinarians are not attracted to the lower cost model, and I'm trying to better understand why. Low-cost practices deliver high-quality medicine and usually offer compensation similar to other veterinary practices. Lower cost clinics are sometimes wellness only, so some veterinarians may miss the opportunity to perform surgery, for example. But there's certainly a need and a demand for this type of care, so there will be plenty of job opportunities for veterinarians at low-cost clinics.