A comprehensive guide to understanding veterinary telehealth

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Article
dvm360dvm360 June 2024
Volume 55
Issue 6

Utilizing technology to nurture pets and support the human-animal bond through every stage of life

irissca/stock.adobe.com

irissca/stock.adobe.com

The concept of telehealth in veterinary medicine is a broad term that includes both telemedicine and teleadvice services. Telemedicine refers to follow-up care provided virtually by a veterinarian who has previously seen the patient in person. Conversely, teleadvice services are available to all pet owners and aim to deliver general health information and recommendations based on specific concerns about a pet. Although teleadvice does not diagnose or treat specific conditions, it offers valuable resources and guidance to support informed health care decisions for pets.

Core objectives of veterinary telehealth

The primary aim of veterinary telehealth is to extend the reach of quality care outside traditional clinic settings. This service is particularly beneficial for pets in remote areas and those stressed by clinic visits or when rapid intervention is needed. Telehealth allows veterinarians to offer continuous and proactive health care management, empowering pet owners with knowledge to make the best decisions for their pets’ health. There are several advantages of implementing telehealth in veterinary practice, including the following:

  • Convenience: Virtual care reduces the need for stressful and time-consuming veterinary visits by facilitating professional consultations from home
  • Accessibility: It can offer a vital link to professional care in rural or underserved areas, ensuring all pets receive necessary support regardless of location.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Telehealth is typically more affordable than in-clinic visits by reducing travel and overhead costs, making veterinary care more accessible to a wider audience.
  • Continuity of care: It can enable veterinarians to monitor patients’ progress and adjust treatment plans virtually, ensuring consistent care throughout a pet’s health journey.

Strategic application of teleadvice services

Teleadvice is especially effective in assessing pets’ quality of life and aiding in the decision-making process for end-of-life care. Veterinary professionals considering teleadvice should ensure it is provided by licensed individuals. At Caring Pathways, all teleadvice and telemedicine providers are not only licensed but also have pursued additional specialty training in end-of-life care, with many attaining certification from the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.

The role of telehealth in veterinary medicine

Telehealth stands as a significant tool in veterinary medicine, providing critical support and enhancing the quality of care throughout a pet’s life, particularly in the sensitive phase of end-of-life care. Embracing telehealth not only helps meet the diverse needs of our patients but also improves the accessibility and effectiveness of our services.

For those interested in integrating or expanding telehealth services, platforms such as Caring Conversations by Caring Pathways offer resources and connection opportunities with trained veterinary professionals to discuss the implementation of end-of-life care telehealth solutions in practice.

How telehealth can provide end-of-life care

End-of-life care is one of the most suitable applications of veterinary telehealth. This service provides essential support to pet owners during a profoundly difficult period, helping them make informed decisions about their pets’ care. Below are some specific areas where teleadvice can be particularly helpful around end-of-life care conversation:

  • Quality-of-life evaluations: Telehealth enables veterinarians to assess a pet’s quality of life remotely, helping owners make decisions that prioritize their pets’ comfort and dignity.
  • Emotional support: Telehealth professionals offer empathetic support throughout the grieving process, which often begins well before a pet’s passing.
  • Palliative care management: For pets with terminal illnesses, telehealth facilitates ongoing care adjustments to maximize comfort and quality of life.
  • Family involvement: Telehealth allows family members, even those geographically separated, to participate in discussions regarding a pet’s care, ensuring all voices are heard in critical decision-making moments.

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