Smartphones and improved video conferencing capabilities are changing almost every aspect of our lives, and veterinary medicine is one of the fields being disrupted by mobile technology.
Telemedicine technology is a growing market. Currently, the market for telemedicine stands at roughly $23.8 billion, according to BCC research, and this total is expected to reach $55.1 billion by 2021. A big part of the growth comes from smartphones and the ease with which patients can now connect with doctors remotely; thanks to our smartphones, we’re all armed with a video camera and a mobile Internet connection, making video conferencing services much easier than in previous decades.
Veterinary medicine also can get in on the act, as I noted on this blog last week. There are additional factors unique to the industry, such as the fact that veterinary patients can’t talk and the American Veterinary Medical Association mandates that vets first establish a relationship with patients and their owners in person before engaging in telemedicine. That doesn’t mean telemedicine is exempt from the opportunity that comes with telemedicine technology, however.
Here are four areas where vets can use telemedicine in their practice.
1. Patient Follow-up
Every vet has been there: An animal with a medical condition such as arthritis is prescribed a medicine such as Rimadyl and a followup appointment for the coming week. Unfortunately, the owner is a no-show for the followup appointment.
There are a variety of reasons for missed appointments, of course. But, the fact remains that owner neglect hurts patients. One way that you can cut down on missed followups is by offering a video conferencing service.
Crating an animal and hoofing to a clinic can be too much work for some pet owners, not to mention limitations from work and animal resistance. A video conferencing service for followup appointments is an easy, ideal way to improve the efficiency of follow-up and also boost reliability by lowering the work needed to make it happen.
2. Routine Checkups
Seeing patients in person is important, but not all visits require the same amount of interaction. Some veterinary appointments are mostly discussion with an owner or a quick visual check of the animal, and these can be easily dispatched with telemedicine.
The advantages of conducting routine checkups by way of video are time savings and also more efficient scheduling. You can see more patients and ease the burden for owners by queuing them up and connecting by video. There also are opportunities to schedule several video appointments back to back and work from home once or twice per week, bringing more balance to your life.
3. Non-Emergency Questions
Many times, pet owners don’t need a full visit to the vet. They just need the advice to make sure they’re not overreacting.
Often, Google fills this need for pet owners. But, the problem both is that not all pet owners are savvy about research, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. Telemedicine can bridge the gap by enabling owners to quickly connect with your veterinary practice without having to go through the full process of making an appointment and bringing the animal in.
“It’s really, more than anything, to help them figure whether it’s an urgency or not,” Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president, and chief veterinary officer for Vet Helpline, told the Veterinary Information Network last year. “‘Is it something I should really be concerned about before I go to bed?’ It’s more an advice line about timing.”
Your veterinary practice can both better serve patients against bad information and please owners by offering video conferencing options for quick, non-emergency questions.
4. Specialist Support
Finally, telemedicine can benefit veterinary practices by more easily enabling specialist consultations—sharing both your specialty with other practices and getting support for your practice where needed.
Through telemedicine, you can quickly establish face-to-face consultations with specialists for areas such as dermatology, ophthalmology, theriogenology and cardiology, among others.
Telemedicine also makes it easy to get a second opinion on x-rays and ultrasound results.
One concern that stops many veterinary practices from embracing telemedicine is cost and complexity. Establishing telemedicine need not be costly or hard to set up, however. With Agora.io, you can easily incorporate reliable video conferencing into your website with only a few lines of code. Agora.io technology works with almost all modern web browsers and doesn’t require plugins or special software for owners. Nor does Agora.io video suffer from dropped calls and poor connections, the result of traffic flowing through our more than 70 global data centers.
There’s no excuse to avoid telemedicine in your veterinary practice—and many reasons to embrace it.