Comparison: Veterinary telemedicine and smartphone apps

May 31, 2019
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, 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.

These telemedicine, client marketing and loyalty program apps help veterinary practices touch base with pet owners with more than postcards.

andrew_rybalko/stock.adobe.com

Caveat, folks: Everything about the internet, telemedicine and smartphone technology is bound to change monthly, sometimes daily. This is our first pass here at dvm360 to corral some of the options that help your veterinary practice in the digital world with medicine, marketing and client education. It's bound to change. If you use something in veterinary practice we missed, hit us up at dvm360news@mmhgroup.com, and maybe we'll add it to the list!

Another caveat: Some state boards are not on board with veterinary telemedicine. You might be hot to try it, but your colleagues on the board might be skeptical. Be sure to check with them before diving in.

 

Anipanion (started January 2018, owned by Animan Technologies)

How many people are using this?

More than 36 practice locations (forecast 100 practices by end of 2019)

More than 10,000 pet owners

What does Anipanion do?

Live virtual care (telemedicine): Records, securely stores (veterinarian's summary, SOAP notes, video call, chat logs between pet owner and veterinarian) and plays back consults moments after a virtual visit has been completed. Fully integrates with IDEXX Cornerstone (with read-and-write-back access) to incorporate virtual care automatically post-consult into workflow. (They expect integration with Avimark, Impromed and ezyVet soon.) The Anipanion app is “private-labeled” for the veterinary hospital with the practice's logo as well as primary and secondary colors to promote the practice brand to clients.

A new “asynchronous” format is in the works, which will allow clients to submit a “chat case/text message” to the practice from the app. Anipanion has seen practices typically charge $10 to $20 less than an office visit for a 15-minute video consult. For the “chat/text message” model, practices would likely charge half the cost of an office visit. But, of course, you're free to charge whatever you see fit.

Worried your clients won't want to pay a lot for virtual visits? That's up to you. Anipanion lets you offer a partial or full discount at the end of a virtual visit in case the client's expectations weren't fully met or they just need to pay to bring the pet into the practice.

Anipanion is VCPR (veterinarian-client-patient relationship)-compliant, ensuring that state and federal guidelines are strictly followed. If a veterinary practitioner violates these guidelines, they won't be allowed to use Anipanion.

Quick onboarding?

Pet owners: CSRs at a Cornerstone practice can invite clients to download the app from the Anipanion interface at the front desk. Clients receive an email to fill out a short registration in the app. Clients don't have to enter their pet details during registration because it's pulled right from the practice's PIMS.

Practices: Hospitals can create Anipanion accounts in less than 15 minutes.

How much does it cost?

Monthly fee per veterinarian using the platform at the practice; pricing varies with practice size. There is no cap or limit on the number of virtual visits per month.

How is it supported?

Anipanion works with the practice to make creative content for social media, emails and fliers and offers a telemedicine site template.

 

 

BabelBark (started 2015)

How many people are using this?

More than 540 clinics, shelters and pet services

More than 220,000 pet owners

Case study: App applicability to medicine

Because of its growing reach into the pet retailer, boarder, groomer and animal shelter space, BabelBark provides a unique opportunity for veterinarians to “coordinate care between multiple providers … with real-time metrics for improved outcomes.”

Founder and CEO Roy Stein shared a story about how this circle of care comes together:

“A veterinarian in Massachusetts did a standard spay for a doodle puppy. The owner of the pet was a twentysomething couple in an apartment in Boston. The veterinary technician gave the couple an activity monitor to put on the doodle's collar, showed them how to download the BabelBark app, added medication notifications and explained how to send messages with pictures to the clinic's BabelVet portal.

“The regular follow-up call the day after went fine, but after four days the couple called to say the doodle seemed lethargic. The vet tech opened the BabelVet portal and looked at the doodle info (via remote monitoring) and saw that activity increased over the first three days but in the past 24 hours the pup was barely active. Medication compliance was fine the first three days, but notifications showed the owners stopped giving the carprofen the morning of the third day, so the pup was without pain medication for a day and a half.

“The technician asked the pet owner to take a picture of the incision and send it to her via the app-everything looked fine. So the tech reinforced the need to continue giving the pain medication for the full 10 days and to send her pictures of the incision every morning. Activity started going up again, medical compliance was back on track, and daily pictures of the incision showed no signs of inflammation or other issues.

“Bottom line: The platform saved everyone a lot of time, as the whole cycle was much shorter than having the owner come to the clinic, the interaction was based on real data and not feelings of the owner, and most of all the patient was able to get the treatment needed without having to be driven to the clinic just three days after an operation. The clinic charged the couple $125 for postop remote monitoring, which they were happy to pay, and now this is a new standard price line item in every operation.”

What does BabelBark do?

Client communication: Connects veterinarians, shelters, groomers, trainers and pet sitters in a single platform (with veterinarian-focused app BabelVet) to, for instance:

  • schedule appointments

  • monitor client compliance for patient medicine (push notifications ask clients to give drugs when they need to)

  • check activity and weight loss (with an activity tracker you can include in bundled care)

  • track vaccinations.

Integrates with “more than 90% of PIMS in North America,” allowing some read-and-write-back access.

If used regularly by veterinary clients and other pet service professionals, BabelBark can give veterinarians visibility into patient care outside the hospital. Texts, pictures and videos can be shared between veterinary clients and veterinarians.

How much does it cost?

One month free trial, then $129 per clinic.

 

GuardianVets (started 2017)

How many people are using this?

Forecast 500 hospitals by end of 2019

More than 600,000 pet owners

Telemedicine works

GuardianVets' John Dillon says he and his team focus on proving the ROI of telemedicine services for practices.

“Practices monetize on the back end by being able to generate new appointments and by being able to capture new clients,” Dillon says. “We are very focused on driving ROI and, on average, our practices see two to three times return on every dollar they spend with us. Some practices even raise their exam fees after adding our service or incorporate televisits into their wellness plans, thereby increasing the ROI further.”

What does GuardianVets do?

After-hours call support: Lets veterinary hospitals provide after-hours triage using veterinarians outside of your treatment area. These veterinarians help schedule visits that can wait, provide advice after hours, and direct pet owners to come in for immediate emergency care if necessary. Documents/records consultations and notes and integrates them into patients' medical records. Will integrate with most major practice management systems with next release. Practices set their own prices for these visits. All traffic for the app (and the upcoming web-based platform for televisits debuting in Q4 2019) starts and stays with the veterinary practice itself.

How much does it cost?

Monthly service fee to the practices that varies with “a number of factors,” including practice size.

 

 

PetDesk (started 2011)

How many people are using this?

More than 1,700 practices in United States and Canada

More than 900,000 pet owners

What does PetDesk do?

Client communication: Syncs with 20 practice management systems (including AVImark, ImproMed Infinity and Cornerstone) to offer pet owners access to their veterinary practice's loyalty program, access to veterinary records (for updating records at boarders and groomers, for instance) and the ability to make appointment requests. Practices can send reminders and targeted messages, make “to-do” lists of pet services to complete for clients, confirm appointments, ask for online reviews and add links to client education, online pharmacies and more.

A version of PetDesk is also used by groomers and boarders.

How much does it cost?

Practices pay a monthly subscription with no contracts.

How is it supported?

App users can reach the tech support team for help right from the app.

 

PetDoc (owned by Doctor Multimedia)

How many people are using this?

Roughly 100 practices

Roughly 2,000 pet owners

What does PetDoc do?

Client communication and rewards program: Gives pet owners smartphone app access to some vaccine records for the most common immunizations required by boarding and grooming institutions. Also includes a loyalty rewards program and lets veterinarians and clients communicate back and forth to manage appointment requests.

How much does it cost?

The app is bundled as part of some of Doctor Multimedia's digital marketing packages.

 

Petlocity (installed by the first practice in fall 2017, owned by Vetlocity)

How many people are using this?

Almost 200 practices

Almost 15,000 pet owners

What does Petlocity do?

Client communication and rewards program: Petlocity's loyalty program measures not just a veterinary client's financial spend but also the level of wellness compliance on a per-pet level. The practice portal tracks pet owner progress with patients' individual wellness milestones and monitors program participation. Can also take prescription refill requests, allows in-app communication to the portal, sends reminders and push notifications, and issues customized rewards. Integrates daily with more than 20 PIMS.

The Petlocity mobile app offers veterinary clients in-app status levels and rewards for complying with a customized veterinarian-set wellness plan for their pets. If veterinarians opt for additional communication, pet owners can use this app to message the veterinary hospital, receive reminders and send prescription refill requests. Pet owners also have access to their individual pet health certificates to prove vaccinations to a third?party via fax, text or email.

How much does it cost?

$299 per month, or an annual fee of $3,200.

 

Petzam (started in 2014)

How many people are using this?

Did not disclose

What does Petzam do?

Live virtual care (telemedicine): Allows veterinary practices to schedule, place and receive video calls as well as bill for those calls (in 10-minute increments) in the app. Veterinarians can set their own billing rates by call type or client. Petzam doesn't directly integrate with veterinary PIMS, but they have “workarounds in certain situations.” Notes must be input by the veterinarians as normal in the medical records themselves.

Petzam says they “follow the strictest practice acts concerning VCPR” and do not market directly to pet owners. Veterinarians with Petzam let their own clients know about the service.

How much does it cost?

Free for pet owners and veterinarians to use, and Petzam takes a “small percentage” of the payment from pet owner to veterinarian after the consult.

 

 

TeleTails (started in 2018)

How many people are using this?

Did not disclose

Saving time, still making money

Hilary Jones, DVM, medical director and co-founder of TeleTails, says the service blossomed right out of her own experience in practice.

“I was spending hours of each day on callbacks and writing emails,” Dr. Jones remembers. “TeleTails helps veterinarians transition many of these daily activities to digital consultations that can end up saving everyone time, allowing us to be compensated fairly for the care we deliver.”

Just ask some questions up front, she says: What is your practice trying to solve by offering virtual care? Are you looking to strengthen client relationships? Are you competing with other practices? Are you trying to more effectively use your veterinarians' time and get paid for the consultation work that often goes unbilled?

“Each practice is a bit different,” Dr. Jones says.

What does TeleTails do?

Live virtual care (telemedicine): Offers live video consultations with a messaging tool that allows pictures, videos and other attachments to be shared back and forth. After consultations, a PDF is created with pricing, messaging and consultation notes and sent to practice's PIMS (a hyperlink to video exchanges is included in the PDF).

Clients download the app and receive a special code from their veterinarian to use it.

Rates are fully customizable by the veterinarians (you decide: standalone digital consultations vs. surgery rechecks, for example), and prices are shown ahead of time to pet owners to avoid talking about pricing during a consultation.

How much does it cost?

Monthly fee based on number of users. Clients pay small service fee per consultation.

 

 

TeleVet (started in 2017)

How many people are using this?

More than 100 practices

More than 1,000 pet owners

What does TeleVet do?

Live virtual care (telemedicine): Allows clients to place video calls or send videos and texts to a veterinary practice, and vice versa, depending on the veterinarians' and clients' preferences. Integrates with AVImark, Cornerstone, Impromed Infinity and Facebook as well as VCP for wellness plans. Material is saved in the app for later review. Veterinarians set the price.

How much does it cost?

$79/month or $59/month (billed annually) per practice.

How is it supported?

Built-in marketing module with materials for social media, practice website and email campaigns.

 

 

Vet2Pet (started in 2013)

How many people are using this?

More than 800 practices

More than 400,000 pet owners

What does Vet2Pet do?

Loyalty program: Allows veterinary practices to offer a customizable client loyalty program tied to the app. Practices choose the icon and app name that appears in the Apple and Android app stores.

Client communication: Sends push notifications via the app to clients individually, in smaller groups or to all clients with photos, hyperlinks and/or PDFs embedded in the message. Allows clients to request appointments and the practice to propose times back to clients. Integrates with “90% of PIMS.” Clients can request refills by taking a picture of the product at home or accessing the practice's online store via the app. Allows clients to share “pet selfies” with veterinarians as well as share fun pet details; these can be shared from the app directly to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also includes links out to online pharmacies, pet health information libraries, pet poison hotlines, and payment options like CareCredit.

How much does it cost?

$219 per month per practice.

How is it supported?

Offers staff engagement programs to get the team up to speed with the app.

 

 

VitusVet (started in 2013)

How many people are using this?

Several hundred practices (with an average client download rate at those practices of 43% for the app)

Don't just check the box

Mark Olcott, DVM, MBA, founder of VitusVet, has strong feelings about veterinary apps:

“The biggest mistake we see practices make is that they adopt a ‘checking the box' mentality when they look at practice apps,” he says. “Practices should look at an app's functionality from a pet owner's standpoint and ask, ‘Would I use this?' If the app is a glorified pet portal, and there's nothing of real value to a 21st-century consumer, then a practice is going to struggle with adoption. And if you have an app where only 3% of your clients are using it, you don't really have an app.”

What does VitusVet do?

Marketing: Uses an “intelligent reminder algorithm” to send text messages, emails, push notifications and postcards to clients. Includes a dashboard to customize marketing campaigns. Integrates with PIMS “running in 98% of North American practices.” Includes client reviews and client survey functionality to let clients post positive reviews directly to Google, Facebook, Yelp! and more.

Client communication: The app allows veterinarians and team members to text and share images using VitusConnect from their smartphones directly to clients' smartphones. Those texts and images are directly copied into medical records.

Pet owners who use the VitusVet app have ongoing access to their medical records through participating veterinarians.

How much does it cost?

Monthly fee per practice depending on the services they want.