The Business Case for Telemedicine in Today's Veterinary Practice
Telemedicine, in particular ‘Real-Time’ telemedicine, are buzz words at the moment, but what exactly is meant by this and what is involved? Telemedicine involves the use of a digital communication technology (PC, tablet or smart phone) to exchange medical information electronically from one site to another to improve a patient's health. Telemedicine should be thought of as an additional way to practice veterinary medicine, not a separate discipline within the veterinary profession.
What kinds of telemedicine are there?
Telemedicine can either be conducted between vets and their clients, or between veterinary professionals (typically general practitioner and specialist).
Telemedicine conducted between vets and their clients (within an established vet-client-patient-relationship) provides clients access to veterinary care in a convenient and safe manner. It can enhance client education, compliance and satisfaction, as well as positively impacting animal health and welfare by facilitating communication, diagnostics and treatments. Telemedicine provides an opportunity for vets to grow their practices, attract new clients and reduce the need for emergency visits. It can also be used to extend the veterinary team’s availability and enable flexible working practices, as well as create important new revenue streams.
Telemedicine conducted between veterinary professionals offers a valuable way for vets to obtain specialist level advice for their patients. This has typically involved sending pre-recorded images to a remote veterinary specialist for evaluation (known as ‘store-and forward’ telemedicine). Traditionally, live interactions between GP vet and specialist have not been possible, which has resulted in several potential shortcomings including lost learning opportunity for the referring vet and an element of delay in receiving the clinical diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient.
What is Real-Time telemedicine?
However, in the context of vet-to-vet telemedicine, new technologies now make real-time interaction between GP vet and specialist a reality. Using a combination of advanced video conferencing technologies and live-sharing from digital diagnostic equipment in the GP vet practice including webcams, high resolution digital medical cameras (e.g. otoscopes, dermascopes, opthalmoscopes, endoscopes etc.), Bluetooth stethoscopes and digital ECGs, highly interactive, real-time consultations that closely mimic the ‘look and feel’ of an in-person specialist consultation, are now a possibility.
What advantages does Real-Time telemedicine offer over traditional telemedicine?
Real-Time telemedicine represents a huge opportunity for first opinion veterinary practices to offer an ‘in-house’ specialty referral service; to be more involved in the work-up of their own cases, to utilise their practice infrastructure, offer clients greater convenience, retain case revenues, and to benefit from a unique ‘hands-on’ learning opportunity not typically associated with external referral.
At the end of the day, what could be better than working up your own cases in your own practice, under the real-time remote guidance of a friendly and highly experienced specialist!
Learn more about Real-Time telemedicine and Virtual Veterinary Specialists https://vvs.vet/
Watch our short explainer video https://vvs.vet/watch-our-video/