Telemedicine - making it pay in bad times and good
The benefits of telemedicine for vets are clear in the Covid-19 era — providing vet practice support by maintaining a revenue stream that is compatible with social distancing measures. However, there is a great case for integrating veterinary telemedicine into your practice business plan in the good times too. When the current crisis passes, here are 9 reasons why you should continue offering virtual appointments alongside your face-to-face service:
Triage is more accurate via teleconsultation than over the phone because practices no longer have to rely solely on the owner description of the issue. This is particularly valuable for emergency and out of hours services, helping to reduce pressure on on-call vets by establishing which cases to prioritise.
Client convenience and accessibility
Remote consultations allow veterinary practices to extend a better level of support to clients that find accessing veterinary care a challenge, for example due to lack of transport or owner health problems. This helps to convert occasional clients to those more regularly seeking support, and can greatly increase the health and welfare of their pets.
Many follow up appointments can be carried out via telemedicine. It also offers a great way to see if there are any issues with compliance that can be resolved and to reinforce the recommendation.
End of life care
Veterinary palliative care often requires regular vet appointments to discuss the patient’s level of comfort on supportive medication such as pain relief or anti-emetics. Offering video consultations where appropriate helps to minimise stressful vet visits for both pet and owner during this difficult time, whilst continuing to provide excellent personalised support.
Pet behaviour in the home
It’s no secret that pets behave differently at the clinic than in their own home, so identifying the cause of unusual or worrisome behaviours that owners are reporting can be a challenge. Remote consultations enable vets to see the pet in their normal environment and gain a better insight into what might be triggering the problem. It also reduces the ‘white-coat effect’ which studies have shown to raise blood pressure and affect behavioural presentations of pets at the vet clinic.
Communication in veterinary practice isn’t always gold-standard, due to the time constraints of staff. Using virtual consultation tools, such as VisioCare Linkyvet, helps to streamline and reduce the time it takes for staff to communicate effectively with clients, providing a better quality of client care. Teleconsultation platforms are perfect for providing hospitalised pet updates to worried owners, who will appreciate great, personalised customer service. Vets and RVNs can also follow-up with recent surgical or in-patients easily and effectively through video.
Does a member of your practice hold a certificate in a specialist area of veterinary medicine? They could offer second opinion telemedicine consults to clients of vet practices outside of your geographical area. Specialities such as dermatology are particularly well-suited to this as Linkyvet generates extremely high quality images and the vet can direct the consult by zooming into regions of interest and applying light through the smartphone when necessary.
Providing a service that clients want
Is the UK veterinary profession meeting the needs of the modern client, and evolving with societal changes? There is sometimes a disconnect between the service that we are providing versus the expectations of clients, and practices will benefit from offering veterinary care that better suits modern life and constraints. Working from home, online conferences and human healthcare telemedicine are increasingly becoming the norm and this will translate to animal health with clients wanting the option of more flexible and convenient veterinary care when suitable.
Veterinary practice financial benchmarks
Telemedicine makes a tangible difference to your practice finances. It is another revenue stream in addition to traditional veterinary appointments and care. As we establish a ‘new normal’ over the coming months, it is likely that a degree of social distancing will remain in place for some time with an increased demand for teleconsultations. Initial data from our free-to-use benchmarking tool Vet Viewer shows that only 19% of telephone or video consults are currently being charged for. In other countries including Canada, France and Switzerland, vets that use Linkyvet are charging 80-100% of a usual consultation fee. UK practices will need to make a similar move to monetise these remote consultations.