Telemedicine: Join, or die?

November 13, 2018
Katie Adams, CVPM
Katie Adams, CVPM

Katie Adams, CVPM, is owner and management consultant at Agrygation Consulting.

Millennials have grown up with technology and the conveniences it affords. If veterinary practices dont adapt to their expectations, they risk being replaced.

Unsure about telemedicine? If you don't lead, you'll have to follow. Telemedicine is a big buzzword in our industry right now, and with good reason. It seems that we are on the cusp of another shift in the way our clients want veterinary medicine delivered.

Banfield was ahead of its time when it rolled out wellness plans to clients in 1988, and it's taken the rest of the industry about 30 years to get on board. My hope is that we don't wait that long to embrace telemedicine, because being on the leading edge means we have the opportunity to shape what it will look like for our industry as opposed to falling into a mold created by someone else. Millennials are expected to overtake Baby Boomers in 2019 as the largest living adult generation. This generation has grown up with technology and all of the conveniences it affords. If we don't adapt, we'll be replaced.

So, what could telemedicine look like in your practice? If it were me, I would determine a specific set of ailments that, based on the particular patient's history, I would be comfortable diagnosing over the phone. For example, let's say Fido's history showed a bad case of otitis during the summer for the past two summers. If the owner called me in June saying Fido had the classic symptoms, I would feel comfortable scripting out my usual regimen (with the understanding that I would need to see the pet if it didn't clear as expected).

Ideally, I'd be able to see my client via FaceTime, Skype or something similar. I would charge a fee for the call similar to the current exam fee, and I would have the necessary medications filled in my pharmacy and overnighted (for a fee) if more convenient for the client. There are more details to work out, of course, but that'd be the gist of it.

On average, clients wait 17 minutes to see the vet. They then spend 20 to 30 minutes in the exam room for the exam and diagnostics. If you add in the drive time to and from the office (let's say it's 20 minutes on average each way), that comes to 87 minutes total. Now, compare that with a 15-minute phone call (which, by the way, the pet owner can accomplish while doing other things like household chores and traveling), and you can see why this service supplies such a huge benefit to clients.  

Katie Adams, CVPM, is director of Curriculum Development at IGNITE Veterinary Solutions.