Veterinary Telehealth as an Added Service: Nothing to Lose, All to Gain!

6 min read

During the initial height of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have investigated adding veterinary telehealth to your repertoire of services, or you may have made your current telehealth system more robust. This contact-free method of caring for your patients was incredibly beneficial when we first started practicing social distancing, but it still has its uses today.

According to Grand View Research, the value of the global veterinary telehealth market was at 92.0 $ million in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.5% from 2021 to 2028.

Human medicine has already taken advantage of telehealth services for years, and veterinary medicine is finally doing the same. Before we talk about how it can help your practice, let’s learn what veterinary telehealth is and how you can implement it within your practice.

What is veterinary telehealth?

Veterinary telehealth is a broad term used to describe any use of technology to deliver health information, education, or care remotely. It is typically divided into services based on whether you have a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) or not. Telehealth types include:

🟣 Telemedicine — Telemedicine is widely gaining popularity among veterinarians, as it is used in various ways if you have an established VCPR. If used correctly, telemedicine can streamline communication, diagnostics, treatments, client education, scheduling, and other tasks, making a veterinary practice more efficient and profitable.

🟣 Tele-advice — Teleadvice encompasses non-specific recommendations for pets, so it does not require a VCPR. Recommending wellness exams and year-round parasite prevention is an example of tele-advice.

🟣 Teletriage — Teletriage can also be performed without a VCPR, as no diagnosis is made. Instead, you can advise seeking veterinary care after listening to a patient’s signs and history.

🟣 Teleconsulting — When you send radiographs to a board-certified radiologist, you participate in teleconsulting, asking for patient-care advice from a specialist or other veterinarian.

🟣 Telesupervision — Credentialed veterinary technicians can perform numerous tasks without a veterinarian in the building, as long as they contact the supervising veterinarian. However, check with your state board to determine what is legal and what is not.

🟣 Telemonitoring — Telemonitoring is the remote monitoring of a patient, such as using a glucose monitor like the Freestyle Libre.

🟣 Electronic prescribing — Electronic prescribing takes the place of paper or faxed prescriptions, but restrictions typically apply, especially concerning controlled substances.

With so many ways to use veterinary telehealth in your practice, you’ll wonder why you didn’t implement these methods of providing care sooner.

Telemedicine with Vetstoria: Learn more

Veterinary Telehealth – 5 benefits of using it in your practice

As a veterinary professional, you’re always looking for additional ways to get more done in a day and provide quality care for the maximum number of pets. But, staffing shortages, limited appointment times, and pet-owner issues (e.g., transportation, finances) can hinder your ability to serve every pet who needs veterinary care.

With the aid of veterinary telehealth options, such as telemedicine, teletriage, and tele-advice, you can help more pets, even without hiring additional staff or staying late (again). Here are five benefits—although there are countless others—to using veterinary telehealth in your practice.

1. Free up in-clinic appointment slots

Veterinary practices are busier than ever, and subsequently, veterinary employees are stressed and pet owners are frustrated. Free up some time in your hectic schedule by offering telemedicine services to your clients for such things as:

🟣 Medical progress exams for skin, behavior, lameness, and gastrointestinal issues

🟣 Postoperative follow-ups

🟣 Hospice care and counseling

🟣 Behavior problems

🟣 Triage non-emergency cases that can wait until your appointment schedule has more room

If there is no reason for you to physically examine a pet in person, consider a telemedicine appointment instead, either through a chat or video call.

2. Care for more patients simultaneously

Consider this scenario: A puppy arrives for its first visit, and the owners are new to caring for such a rambunctious ball of fluff.

Because of their inexperience with puppies, they are filled with questions about their new furry family members’ best care. While your veterinary technician discusses the basics of teething, housetraining, crates, nutrition, wellness care, and behavior with the new puppy owners, you can begin a telemedicine appointment with a dermatology case. The owner shoots you a brief message about their dog’s unusual skin and hair coat changes, and you request in-focus pictures to help make a diagnosis. While the owner is wrangling their Labrador, you can see the new puppy appointment. After the new pup is on its way, you can evaluate the pictures waiting in your inbox. Boom, you have helped two pets and pet-owners within the duration of one appointment.

3. Evaluate patient progress virtually

Medical progress exams are essential for determining if a pet requires additional diagnostic testing or a different treatment plan. However, these brief appointments can sometimes fill your schedule while leaving free time in each appointment slot. Rather than “wasting” your and your client’s time, schedule appropriate rechecks as virtual care appointments.

4. Receive payment for providing virtual care

How often have you answered a text, email, or Facebook message from a client about their pet’s health? All too often is typically the answer to this question, especially since most veterinarians rarely receive an offer of payment for their services. However, telemedicine provides a way for you to collect payment for your advice. Instead of replying to a late-night Facebook message about a pet’s limping, instruct your client to schedule a telemedicine appointment through the appropriate channel—like your practice website—so you can evaluate the pet, offer a diagnosis or advice, and prescribe treatment!

Some solutions allow you to schedule, take payment for, and perform these telehealth services through one convenient platform that’s integrated with your existing schedule.

5. Offer a convenient, travel-free care option for pet owners

Inclement weather, transportation issues, and scheduling conflicts are common reasons for pet owners to miss their appointments. But, with telehealth services, these excuses are a thing of the past. By offering telemedicine and other telehealth options to your clients, you make caring for their pets more accessible and more convenient, allowing you to provide high-quality care for even more pets.

Final thoughts

Telehealth and its various components exist to make your job easier, more efficient, and less stressful, allowing you to focus on what truly matters—patient care.

Although it may seem daunting, begin with small steps before making a giant leap. For example, start performing your postoperative rechecks virtually. If the incision looks good and there are no issues, your 10-second post-op recheck saves you and your client time and money when it’s done virtually. Many resources are available to help make implementing veterinary telehealth in your practice a breeze, so be sure to reach out for help along your journey.

Check out this video below with Vetstoria client Gail Bigelow, Hospital Manager at Center Veterinary Clinic discussing how Vetstoria’s telemedicine feature helped during the height of COVID-19 👇👇