Working with Telemedicine – Now & After COVID-19

6 min read
long road to recover
Long road to recovery

Inexperienced in telemedicine? Think again.

Whether telemedicine has been on your radar for a while or you’ve just thought of offering it because of COVID-19, the idea that a vet can help a pet owner remotely is definitely not new. Surely, at one point, you’d have spent time on the phone with a pet-owner talking about treatment plans after seeing photos that have come through. The difference is, you never charged for it.

Other than acknowledging there are limitations to how you can examine an animal, you’ll need to keep in mind some other factors, for example, considering the lighting for your camera, both for yourself and the pet-owner. Telemedicine is a cause for celebration, not fret. 

Given that both vets and pet-owners have been affected by social-distancing, it is more urgent than ever for you to start offering sustainable solutions; one such is telemedicine (video consultations). This post will give you some widely discussed ideas to help you get started if you haven’t already worked out what’s best for your practice during the crisis.

What are the ideal circumstances for video consultation during COVID-19?

1. Injuries and lesions

Although there are still barriers to examine closely on a wound or lesion, modern mobile device cameras will be able to capture details including a pet’s movement on the video consultation so an informed treatment plan can be made. If the wound has discolouration, can it be abscess? Should the pet be seen immediately? You are able to make those calls right there and then.

2. End of life care

Imagine delivering bad news to a pet-owner (such as the need for euthanasia) during this grim time over the telephone. It would be very disheartening and distant. Telemedicine provides a professional context for a discussion where both parties can see each other’s faces, as well as convey emotions and empathy. Visible body language is essential when providing support to a pet owner with whom there is an existing relationship.

3. Chronic conditions

Diabetes is a good example here. It’s more likely that the animal you’ll see during a telemedicine appointment is an animal that you have treated physically. Chronic conditions such as diabetes won’t necessarily need a full physical examination or blood test – the pet owner is just after a medicine refill.

4. Parasiticides

A good camera generally does the trick. However, in cases where video quality or lighting is not up to standard, get the pet owner involved ‘to be your eyes’. Again, you should refer to your national veterinary associations for this advice. 

5. Miscellaneous

Post-op checks, lethargy, limping, as well as dental, skin and ear issues. If the issue is visible with the naked eye, in most cases telemedicine will help!

What can you do with telemedicine AFTER COVID-19?

What will be the new normal for your practice?

The financial damage that COVID-19 has inflicted will have a long-lasting impact on pet owners, some of whom may work in industries that will take years to bounce back. Telemedicine will play a key role in providing access to pet owners who may otherwise be discouraged to visit the practice unless they urgently need to do so. 

Telemedicine may not facilitate all diagnostic and treatment needs, but when implemented well it will provide first-level support to pet owners who are restricted by location or time. Essentially, it offers a convenient alternative to needing to travel into practice.

1. Stressed cats

Fact: 58% of cat owners said cats hate going to the vet and 38% of cat owners said that “even just thinking about taking the cat to the vet is already stressful” (Source: Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond). Needless to say, Telemedicine comes in and saves the day for those stressed felines. 

2. Referrals

Particularly powerful when conversations can be logged and noted on the telemedicine platform itself and follow-up appointments can be booked in real-time.  Pet-owners tend to travel far to get to a referral service. Accessing a video call first will help determine the next steps in treatment and whether the journey is necessary.

3. Post-Surgery checks

Post-op checks such as orthopedic surgeries where the pet may be instructed to limit activity – cage rest. This allows the vet to assess the wound. The client can lead walk the pet on video at a time when healing is paramount and limited activity is vital. These checks via video can also be done by nurses just like in the normal settings to maximize the resources and increase flexibility.

4. An additional means of monetizing your expertise

Think about the time you gave away free advice just because the pet owner was on the phone. With a helpful mindset and intention to give out additional advice upon seeing emails or images pet-owners have sent in, it could be more effective to arrange a video consultation and go through the findings and treatment plans. Pet owners are likely to take you up on the offer to book a telemedicine appointment for this if you offer it to them – and even better, you can make a few extra bucks!

What can your clients do to help?

1. Good lighting

Hollywood is an illusion. It’s just good makeup and lighting. Doing a video call in a well-lit environment will make the video call much more effective and helpful for the vet and pet owner. Do not under-estimate this.

2. Measurements

It’s not difficult for a pet owner to collect some data prior to the call. This can include weight, water, and food consumption, temperature, litter tray data,  resting respiratory rate and photo or video evidence of skin tenting, the colour of non-pigmented mucous membranes, or any other abnormalities.

Prompt pet owners to check and provide as much detail prior to your appointment, so it is more efficient for both parties.

Enough to get you started? 

With a forward-thinking mindset and some confidence, conducting work on the video medium will become an integral part of a practice’s workflow, as it’s something pet owners are already familiar with, especially since COVID-19.

Using Telemedicine with real-time online triage and scheduling will ensure maximum audience out-reach and conversion, reduce phone volume for practices that still allocate human resource at the front desk.

The ultimate triple thread

Real-time Online Booking, Telemedicine and Payment by Vetstoria is the combo that will fast track any practice’s digital transformation. Using Telemedicine with real-time online triage and scheduling will ensure maximum audience out-reach and conversion, reduce phone volume for practices that still allocate human resource at the front desk.

These features integrate with your practice’s management system, creating zero manual work for staff. The system is also capable of collecting payments online during the booking process to limit no-shows and missed payments. Here’s a short video explaining how it works:

The pandemic is just a caveat that accelerated the adoption of telemedicine, so I’m sure you’ll develop your own menu for what you want to offer on telemedicine very soon.

To learn more about Vetstoria’s Telemedicine offering head to: https://www.vetstoria.com/telemedicine/