Modern telemedicine feels a bit likes science fiction – tap a few buttons and boom: your doctor’s face, on a screen. According to BCC Research, the telehealth market is expected to reach more than $27 billion by 2016, and experts see the veterinary telemedicine market growing in step. Just Google the term “veterinary telemedicine” and you get more than 217,000 results!
In a veterinary practice, being able to offer better medicine can mean better income.
How You Can Incorporate Telemedicine in Your Veterinary Practice
Consider this common scenario:
You examine “Reilly”, an arthritic Labrador, and prescribe Rimadyl daily. You set a follow-up appointment for the end of the week. Reilly’s owner is a no-show.
We’ve all been there. How many times has a patient skipped a follow-up appointment? Imagine being able to efficiently contact pet owners, discuss problems and observe your pet patients in a way that is easy and convenient for you and the pet owners. This is the cutting edge of veterinary practice.
Now consider this scenario:
A geriatric cat, “Milo”, visits your clinic for lethargy and polydipsia. Following a thorough exam and blood work, you diagnose Feline Hyperthyroidism. You prescribe 2.5 mg Methimazole orally, twice daily. You schedule an online follow-up three days later. Via webcam, you observe “Milo” at home during dinner and evaluate his appetite and progress. You are able to discuss his response to the treatment with the pet owner in a timely, concise manner.
A virtual follow-up after a surgery or initial office visit allows you to interact with your client and, more importantly, visually assess your patient.
Managing staff time and client appointments is vital to any veterinary clinic. In a standard office visit, you would spend maybe 15 to 20 minutes talking with the patient, but an additional 20 minutes of staff time is spent checking in the patients, preparing exam rooms and pulling records, and that’s not including overheads. Virtual follow-up visits have the potential to reduce overall operating costs, while increasing revenue. It’s a win-win!
Standard Checkups and Non-Emergency Questions
No matter who you are, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. A visual “visit” provides a vast amount of clinical information in a short amount of time. This is especially useful for elderly clients, working clients, and college students whose busy schedules or limited mobility can affect their access to the veterinary office. Even when your recommendation is that they should come into the office, it’s better than leaving them to consult “Dr. Google.”
Increased internet speeds and computer processing power have enabled veterinarians real-time, face-to-face consultation opportunities with specialists. Expand your practice by involving dermatologists, ophthalmologists, theriogenologists and cardiologists.
Whether you need a consultation on a complex cardiology case or a second opinion on an x-ray or ultrasound, there is someone ready to help. You could even have a radiologist confirm your findings while the patient is still in your office!
What are the Challenges?
Telemedicine is the future of veterinary medicine and streamlines services for clients, pet patients, and veterinary clinics. This technology never replaces hands-on examination, but it does allow you to get the ball moving.
There is a real need to update policies in order to keep up with the light-speed evolution of technology. Many states are reviewing their Veterinary Practice Act to accommodate new technology, but there is no doubt that unforeseen issues may arise as we chart new territory. However, one doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict the rising adoption of veterinary telemedicine when the possibilities for improving diagnostics, treatment and practice management are so tantalizing.
Meet the Author
Dr. Clayton Jones
Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. He also is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.
Veterinarians interested in learning more about expanding their practice and increasing revenue through telemedicine should visit our Partners page.