Exploring telehealth opportunities in veterinary medicine
Learn more about the benefits of video conferencing and how to best incorporate it into your practice
As telehealth and virtual care become more popular in human health care, veterinary professionals are interested in how this may translate to veterinary medicine. Even telehealth in a smaller capacity can help alleviate stress for each member of your team and make your practice more appealing to potential employees.
In an interview with dvm360®, Cathy Barnette, DVM, a writer and industry consultant at Provet Cloud, shared her advice on integrating virtual options into veterinary medicine. Barnette graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville in 2006. Since then, she has worked for several corporate and privately owned small animal veterinary practices and as a freelance veterinary medical writer.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth for human medicine has significantly grown and made this form of health care more prominent in everyday life. “We’ve seen a lot more comfort with telehealth with COVID-19 because people were not able to go into the office with their medical providers as they normally would. This led to increased comfort with telehealth in the veterinary world, too,” Barnette said.
How can veterinary telehealth be beneficial?
Burnout has been a daunting problem in veterinary medicine, and professionals in the industry have been searching for various solutions. “Veterinarians are busier than ever... so there’s been a big push [and] a big need for more efficiency,” Barnette said.
What can virtual care do to alleviate some of this stress and increase the clinic’s efficiency? According to Barnette, it can create more flexibility in weekly schedules and reduce daily commutes. It can also be beneficial for veterinarians who are parents, providing more flexibility with childcare.
Jess Trimble, DVM, spoke on an episode of The Vet Blast Podcast about virtual care and explained how a work-from-home day for veterinarians can help improve their mental health. “Mental health matters. And if they need to have a work-from-home day where they are communicating with clients, maybe that’s a great idea. Maybe they’ll stay with the clinic for 15 years instead of 5 years,” she said.
Along with the idea of veterinarians staying longer at clinics, the flexibility of telehealth can make your practice more attractive to new employees. “Just like in other fields, every veterinary practice is struggling to attract and retain good employees. The more you can do to make your positions attractive, the better chance you have of not only filling those positions but also having your choice of candidates from which to fill those positions,” Barnette said.
Easing into telehealth
Knowing that not all veterinary medicine can be done virtually is a common pushback against incorporating telehealth into veterinary practices. For example, surgery needs to be done in the clinic. But Barnette and Trimble challenged veterinary professionals to reevaluate what daily tasks can easily be done at home. “Think through all the tasks that have to happen in your practice on a daily basis. What are all the things that need to get done in a day? Look carefully and with an open mind at which of those tasks could be done from home,” Barnette said.
Barnette also suggested easing into the process. “Start slowly. Maybe you just identify a few of those tasks that are easy to do from home. Begin having 1 employee work a portion of a day from home handling those tasks and see how it goes. Once you see how things are working, then it can be easier to say, ‘OK, this is going well; we’re going to add more tasks.’ Or if you feel like this is all that [you] want to do remotely, then you stop there, [and] you are not committing in this big way,” she said.