Banfield jumps into telehealth; Jane Lynch to reinforce veterinary expertise

June 20, 2019
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

dvm360, dvm360 July 2019, Volume 50, Issue 6

Largest North American practice chain offers Vet Chat, a 24-hour veterinary advice platform, to wellness plan participants.

Banfield has introduced a telehealth service, Vet Chat, to the smartphone app designed for pet owners on their wellness plans. What's more, actress Jane Lynch has signed on to help warn people about the dangers of seeking out random advice about their pets' health from the internet.

“Vet Chat gives Banfield Optimum Wellness Plan clients on-demand access to a veterinarian, through the Banfield app, for immediate guidance, advice and recommended next steps in resolving the pet health issue being discussed,” reads the new service's FAQ.

Internet ignorance?

Banfield peppered its announcement of Vet Chat with data from a survey of 1,029 pet owners and 204 veterinarians this year. Three pieces of data that indicate “Searchengineitis” from the survey include:

  • 39% of pet owners struggle to decide when to call the veterinarian.
  • 71% of pet owners turn to the internet instead of their veterinarian.
  • 47% of veterinarians say the effects of a pet owner's independent treatment attempts have masked or changed a pet's original signs, making issues harder to accurately diagnose.

The website goes on to explain exactly what the veterinarians at the other end of the digital communication can and will do (it's less than what other telemedicine apps operating under established veterinarian-client-patient relationships [VCPRs] do): “Vet Chat doctors do not have access to pet medical records and do not treat, diagnose, prognose or prescribe/refill. They limit their interactions to general advice and recommending one of these next steps: refer to Banfield for an in-person visit, watch and wait, general information and refer to emergency.”

That makes Vet Chat similar to other telemedicine triage services available to private practitioners like GuardianVets, but unlike, say, Anipanion, Petzam, TeleTails and TeleVet, which let practices directly manage cases virtually.

Jane Lynch, a dog-owning celebrity who has supported shelter adoptions and other pet causes, is helping Banfield raise awareness of the dangers of turning to the internet with pet health issues instead of seeking counsel from a veterinarian.

“As the proud owner of three rescue pups, I am all too familiar with the sounds of a dog vomiting at 3 in the morning-and the comfort and peace of mind that comes with having a veterinary team I can count on,” says Lynch in a Banfield press release.

Banfield has presented the new app as a way not to circumvent necessary veterinary visits, but to counter bad pet health advice from the internet and help folks figure out if they need to come in. A 15-second ad spot for Vet Chat that you can watch on YouTube features a woman with her dog facing experts at two desks, “the internet” and “Vet Chat”:

Banfield client: “Why is she shaking her head like that?”

The internet: “Your dog's been selected.”

Vet Chat: “It could be an ear infection.”

The internet: “The Illuminati are trying to control her mind.”

Vet Chat: “Just … bring her in.”

The internet: “Cut a piece of her fur and bury it at midnight.”

“Don't ask the internet,” says the ad's narrator.

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