Digital Technology and the Future of Veterinary Medicine

6 min read

Skynet may not have taken over just yet, but advancements in software and applied technology are finding their way into veterinary medicine. Like it or loathe it, the future’s arriving a little more every day. Resistance is futile. Changes in digital technology bring more than headaches to veterinary medicine and practice management, though. 

If you can tolerate the slight learning curve, the potential exists to boost revenue, save money, minimize employee workload, create a happier workplace, and improve patient and pet owner care.

Table of contents

  1. Advances in Practice Management
  2. Telemedicine: The Future of Communication
  3. Technology Marches On
  4. Preparing Your Practice

Advances in Practice Management

Patient care is a team effort. Advances in software management coordinate those teams in fresh ways that ease the burdens of paperwork, exhaustive searches, and long meetings. With a few simple upgrades, you can clear out the clutter of your records’ room, streamline consultations, minimize receptionist calls for appointments and improve communication with your clients.

PIMS: Good-Bye Redundant Systems

Patient information management systems (PIMS) combine multiple tasks into a single software program. This advancement in digital technology coordinates handwritten records (many of which are illegible), bulky scheduling ledgers, bookkeeping, and even radiograph shelves into one location. Depending on the company you sign with, you have the opportunity to:

  • Track client and patient information, including:
    • Lab work
    • Imaging
    • Medications
    • Current disease states
  • Monitor practice efficiency and profits
  • Track and order pharmacy and other retail supplies
  • Integrate treatment plans and notes, replacing bulky cage-side clipboards with handheld devices
  • Integrate with online appointment booking providers such as Vetstoria
  • Access data off-site
  • Send follow-ups and reminders

Your data backs up to a cloud, negating the need for large server platforms. Doctors gain the freedom to log into the system from any device, allowing more efficient communication within the team. Some PIMS even coordinate with websites, allowing clients to schedule their appointments automatically, but using a dedicated product like Vetstoria is a more robust choice. The seamless integration frees your staff to handle in-person communications and more critical phone calls.

Telemedicine: The Future of Communication

Veterinarians already utilize telemedicine for specialty consultations, something they’ve tapped into for years. However, when COVID-19 struck, and stay-at-home orders went out, telemedicine usage exploded. Adoption further accelerated when bodies such as the RCVS – Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons decided to extend the remote prescribing guidance allowing veterinary surgeons to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) remotely without prior physical examinations.

When it comes to emergencies, hands-on veterinary care will remain the gold standard. For pet owners with simple questions, or owners in remote locations, telemedicine offers a new technological option, though. Owners with smartphones can submit videos or digital images and chat with their veterinarian without a need to travel.

As a practice benefit, telemedicine provides doctors with opportunities to work from home during the workweek. You cut down on excessive hours in the practice while still providing quality patient care.

Technology Marches On

Whether its digital monitoring or advancements in data analysis, the future has never looked brighter. Computer-based learning systems aid doctors and veterinary students alike with research and daily tasks, minimizing wasteful processes. These technological marvels promise the betterment of not only patient care but improvements within the field as a whole.

Wearable Devices: Tracking Everything

Fitbit-style wearable devices pop up everywhere. The agricultural industry already utilizes technology in the form of ear tags in cows and pigs. The small wearables detect heart rate, temperature, and even food intake, allowing farmers to assess the overall health of their herds. By 2025, manufacturers estimate the market for such devices in the pet industry will reach $8 billion.

The Wireless Zoo is currently developing a wearable designed to eliminate the necessity for bulky machines in the surgery suite. The device clips to the pet while they’re awake to establish baseline readings. The clip follows them into the operating room and continues monitoring into recovery. Practices could even send the device home to allow further monitoring, generating an additional revenue stream.

Big Data: The World at Your Fingertips

Veterinary medicine generates billions of data points every year. The technological advancements of PIMS, wearable devices, and workflow tools promise even more data in the years to come. 

How to handle such data clusters? Big data analytics provide a new way for veterinarians to handle these massive data sets.

If your practice operates under the consolidator umbrella, then the data requirements are even higher, because of the normalization and alignment around the same SKUs becomes mandatory.

Today’s veterinary students learn the process of machine learning and coding, preparing them to engage with big data. The analysis would allow for response to immediate health risks in real-time. This contrasts with the current procedure of retroactive studies, relying on journal reviews. PIMS, connected through clouds, provides researchers with immediate access to health screens, appointments booked over years, and lab work across regions. So when the next outbreak of canine influenza strikes, appropriate health warnings could go into effect immediately, targeted to relevant countries.

AI: Teaching Intelligence

No one’s getting replaced with a droid medic just yet. However, many veterinary clinics rely on the Vetology service, which uses an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to review their radiographs. Vetology “trained” an AI system to read radiographs of the canine thorax, heart, and lungs. Results come up within five minutes, which beats the average 20-day turnaround by a human radiologist. With a shortage of veterinary radiologists, Vetology’s AI system is stepping up to fill the gap. AI coding for specific programs works beautifully. For instance, the University of California-Davis developed an AI screen for Addison’s disease. Even the best veterinarians miss this “great pretender,” wasting critical time screening for other conditions. The AI received coding to help it alert doctors to the suggestion of Addison’s, prompting them to run crucial ACTH stimulation tests. The same team is now working on a new AI for leptospirosis, hoping to cut down the current 10-day waiting period for lab results.

Preparing Your Practice

Technological advances are working their way into veterinary medicine. Corporations grow in the veterinary domain, and their enterprise requirements and shareholder goals dictate new & advanced tools in a perceivably simple veterinary setting. As new digital platforms arise, your best bet is to look into the benefits offered.

  • How many staff members have asked for upgrades?
  • Does the system improve practice daily life and minimize workload?
  • What advantages would your practice gain by adding the technology? Can they be measured?
  • Are there new technologies that improve your current modalities?

Whether it’s 3D printing to create custom prosthetics for your patients or starting slow with a social media account to allow your clients to register comments, digital technology offers numerous opportunities for practice management. You have unlimited options to choose from to bring your practice online with the “current” future. Selecting such an advancement could make a critical difference in both your patient care and your bottom line.

This is a guest post, written by Alex Balabanov, Marketing Director at Veterinary Integration Solutions