The future of virtual care in veterinary medicine

October 1, 2020

Interested in implementing a telehealth component to your practice, but not sure where to start? The Veterinary Virtual Care Association is here to help.

Imagine this…

One of your clients wakes up and receives an app notification that their dog has been less active than usual and has been eating erratically. The app provides a graphic display of these events, and asks if the owner would like to connect with a veterinarian for a consult. The owner clicks the ‘yes’ button and has an immediate video consult with a veterinarian, who can view and evaluate all the data on the client’s app.

After some discussion with the owner and observation of the dog eating during the video consult, the veterinarian suspects that the dog’s change in behavior could be due to a dental problem. The owner agrees to connect with a local veterinarian for an in-person assessment and likely dental radiographs. Within the app, the consulting veterinarian instantly pulls up a local veterinarian’s schedule and offers various times. The appointment is set for 9 am the next day.

On the morning of the appointment, the veterinarian gets in her car. Her onboard navigation system announces her schedule for the day and describes the first case. The app sends the patient history and activity logs to her mobile phone and to the clinic office, so her technicians are already waiting for the owner and have all the records from the video consult. A fractured tooth is diagnosed during the examination.

Virtual-reality headsets allow the veterinarian to show the radiographs to the owner and veterinary students and discuss them as the diagnosis is being made. Treatment options are reviewed, and surgical dental extraction is planned for that afternoon. Throughout the pre-anesthesia and recovery periods, the owner receives updates through the app, including text messages announcing when the procedure is about to start, video clips of the veterinarian or technicians explaining the procedure and postoperative outcome, and photos showing the dog happy and healthy in recovery.

This is the future

This is the future of veterinary medicine and the value of virtual care—and not just in pandemic times. As the inaugural Veterinary Virtual Care Association (VVCA) Summit showed, not only do pet owners crave this type of connectivity and engagement in their pet’s health, but using this technology improves efficiency and revenue for veterinary practices.

More than 3600 industry and veterinary professionals registered for the August summit, with 1300 live attendees during the 2-day event. According to Ali McIntyre, VVCA executive director, on-demand viewership was very high in the days following the summit, and both existing and new registrants continue to watch sessions, which address the many facets of implementing a virtual medicine component in veterinary practice, including logistics, quality of care, and financial feasibility.

“We’ve received high marks and excellent feedback for the content we delivered, the varied session formats, the positive tone and expertise of the speakers, and the overall excitement the [event] generated for the future of veterinary medicine and the use of virtual care tools to elevate the standard of practice,” McIntyre says.

For more information

The summit program will remain available for viewing, free of charge, until November 15, with continued free CE credits available. Visit virtualcaresummit.vet to register. To learn more about the VVCA or to become a member, visit vvca.org​.

Dr. Packer is an associate professor of neurology/neurosurgery at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Fort Collins, and is board certified in neurology by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. She is active in clinical and didactic training of veterinary students and residents and has developed a comparative neuro-oncology research program at Colorado State University.

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