The improvements in digital communication technologies present an opportunity for veterinary healthcare providers to expand access to care through offering virtual veterinary visits. Telehealth has been immensely successful in human healthcare models. As the COVID-19 pandemic has many people staying at home, telehealth tools are also expanding into the veterinary field.
Telehealth encompasses every technology used to deliver health information, education, and care remotely. The digital interaction between veterinarians and clients can be through text messaging, photo messaging, emails, or video calls. Aspects of it include telemonitoring, e-prescriptions, telemedicine, and teleconsulting.
A modern solution to modern problems
Previously hindered by regulations, pet telemedicine is helping veterinary care reach more pets. For people living in economically disadvantaged, underserved, or remote areas, virtual veterinary care provides essential clinical and educational assistance, similar to in-person assistance by a veterinarian.
Telemedicine is not a one size fits all model. Telemedicine providers allow clients to customize programs and offer certain benefits based on a given price point or subscription. Clients have unique needs, and telemedicine gives providers increased flexibility to accommodate the needs of each pet and pet parent.
Customizable pet healthcare option
Telehealth modernizes veterinary healthcare in a way that is more personalized, patient-
centered, and aligned with existing technology. For example, pet parents can leverage
telehealth technology through mobile applications in practices where that is offered. Adopting telehealth features can also help reduce client wait times associated with in-office veterinary appointments.
Telehealth can help clients find accurate information that enables them to provide the best possible care to their pets. Generic internet searches are commonly used for answers regarding pet health issues. This can result in incorrect and contradictory information. A telemedicine service, through the delivery of situation-specific information from experts, can resolve this problem.
For routine post-surgical follow-up care, veterinarians can comment on an animal’s recovery process, including the surgical site’s current appearance through live observation on video calls or in pictures. This way, pet parents don’t have to transport the recovering pet to the hospital, which may be stressful and difficult.
Convenient access to vet services right from home
Veterinary telemedicine offers a viable alternative for in-person, routine veterinary visits. The stay-at-home orders in some states have made the adoption of telehealth essential. While it cannot replace in-person visits, these services can be open for all as long as they have the necessary technology and a pre-established client-vet relationship.
Pet parents often seek advice on whether their pet’s medical concern needs immediate attention or can safely wait until a more convenient or optimal time. On-demand virtual care provides convenient peace of mind for pet parents. Car rides and waiting rooms can be replaced by veterinary advice received in the comfort of home.
Still in its infancy
Telehealth tools improve access to veterinary care by providing information for cases that don’t necessitate an in-person visit, such as some post-surgical follow-ups, or in cases where it’s safer to collaborate remotely, as with behavioral problems.
However, since veterinary telehealth is in its infancy, state laws about the type of telehealth and availability vary. Most states only allow diagnosis and prescription if an already established doctor-patient relationship exists. Patients must have already received an in-person exam by a veterinarian, which is typically required to have taken place in the last year.
At many practices, pet parents are unaware of the telehealth tools offered or how to take
advantage of them. Educating clients about the telehealth services provided and what they are best used for can help them access telehealth care.
First line of defense
The personalized communication of telemedicine platforms may help save time and money, especially for urgent questions or to learn if an expensive visit to an emergency veterinary hospital is necessary.