Veterinarians, telemedicine and COVID-19

April 3, 2020
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA

The need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has created fertile ground for the use of telemedicine in providing veterinary care. Here's what you should know.

"Veterinary telemedicine—140 years and going strong," says Aaron Smiley, DVM, chief of staff at Devonshire Veterinary Clinic in Anderson, Indiana and Geist Station Animal Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Veterinarians and telemedicine are a natural match, Dr. Smiley says, because we're very good at customer care. What we are not as good at, he admits, is monetizing the experience.

Dr. Smiley has been engaging in telemedicine for profit for about three years, and he reports that clients are "more than happy to pay" for the service because they understand the value of the veterinarian's expertise.

If you're wondering what you should be diagnosing, treating or monitoring using telemedicine, Dr. Smiley recommends the sister-in-law test.

"I always tell veterinarians: You can diagnose things that you would diagnose for your sister-in-law," he says. In other words, consider what you would do for a family member via text or phone as a guide for what you would do for a client. You're not going to offer subpar care to your relatives, so use that same barometer for your clients, he adds.

In the video below, Dr. Smiley explains what makes veterinary telemedicine different from human telemedicine and how veterinarians can put it to good use in their practice right now.