Editor’s note: Ann explains how telemedicine technology can be used in veterinary and why it is worth investing in telemedicine software in animal health care services. If you are interested in establishing technology-enabled animal healthcare, you’re welcome to turn to ScienceSoft's team for healthcare IT consulting.
In March 2017, the Veterinary Innovation Council (VIC) surveyed pet owners in the US to better understand their use of telehealth in veterinary medicine. Around 30% of respondents said that they didn’t know that telemedicine existed and 26.4% said that telemedicine was not available to them.
One of the reasons for telemedicine being unpopular at that time was a veterinary practice law allowing veterinarians to offer telehealth and telemedicine services only to clients who already had a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR*).
*VCPR is established only when the veterinarian examines the animal in person and is maintained by regular veterinary visits as needed to monitor the animal's health.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinarians had to limit personal contact with their clients. This has led federal governments to relax their telemedicine and VCPR legislation, making telemedicine available to a wider range of pet owners. It allows veterinarians to prescribe treatment without direct examination of pets or making visits to them, which will limit personal interaction and potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. Nevertheless, veterinary practices vary by state, so it's better to check with the state licensing board for details.
Telemedicine in veterinary: the essence and use cases
Telemedicine is successfully used in veterinary, e.g., for postoperative checks, scheduled follow-up visits for pets with chronic diseases, dermatologic concerns, behavioral issues, for writing and getting electronic prescriptions, etc. Besides that, telemedicine allows pet owners to get prompt help in cases of animals’ non-obvious health problems (e.g., a dog’s sudden mild limping can be either a sign of a simple muscle strain or a severe muscle inflammation).
Different variants of telemedicine technologies can be useful for these cases: synchronous communication (via live two-way audio/video technology), asynchronous communication (store-and-forward technology), and remote patient monitoring (using body-worn smart devices for pets).
It is carried out through an online videoconferencing between a veterinarian and a pet owner and allows the doctor to diagnose, prescribe, and adjust treatment for an animal without the need to visit a veterinary hospital or clinic in person.
With the help of asynchronous technologies, a client can share a description of an animal’s health problem via email, text, or voice message, as well as by sending photos or videos showing an animal’s health problem. Asynchronous communication allows the veterinarian to respond to the client in accordance with his schedule and the urgency of the situation, as well as accumulate enough information about the patient (e.g., test results, images with visual signs of illness, etc.) to make a diagnosis, prescribe or adjust treatment.
Remote patient monitoring
It allows collecting animals’ data remotely via cloud-connected biosensors (e.g., portable glucose monitors, smart patches, etc.) worn by animals outside a vet clinic or hospital and transmitting data to a veterinarian’s mobile health application online 24/7. Biosensors collect an animal’s vitals (e.g., heart rate, glucose level, etc.) and transfer them to a veterinarian-facing app. The app makes the data available to a doctor and facilitates the communication between an animal’s owner and a vet through video, audio, instant messaging, etc.
Key tips for telemedicine software implementation in veterinary
Opt for a cloud-based telemedicine platform
Today, the cloud is not only a model that can support safe health information storage and exchange. Cloud providers (Amazon, Microsoft, Google) offer automated infrastructure provision, cost-efficient licensing, platform access from anywhere, reliable backup and recovery systems, powerful analytics capabilities, and more.
Ensure your telemedicine app complies with reimbursement policies
The app’s compliance with reimbursement policies means that the application should provide animal owners with info about their pet insurance coverage and support card payments if the insurance doesn’t cover telemedicine services.
Provide easy integration of telemedicine solution with your EHR
By automatically transferring data to the vet’s EHR, time is saved and the possibility of error that can occur during manual data entry (e.g., an animal’s condition, changes in the treatment, or prescribed medications) is minimized.
The advantages of veterinary telemedicine
For pets and their owners
Visiting a veterinarian is stressful for an animal - starting with a trip to the vet clinic and back and ending with an examination in an unfamiliar environment. Telemedicine-based visits in their home environment minimize the level of stress for them and their owners.
For veterinary clinics
Telemedicine gives veterinary clinics an advantage over the competitors by increasing their clients' level of satisfaction with the care of their pets. Besides, the use of telemedicine allows veterinarians to conduct more consultations during the day, which generates higher income for the clinic.
Time to improve veterinary care with telemedicine
The global telehealth and telemedicine market is expected to reach $191.7 billion by 2025, which makes veterinary telemedicine a promising investment for healthcare organizations and product companies. In addition, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telemedicine has become a way to make veterinary care provision safer for animal owners. If you want to know how to use telehealth technology to improve your veterinary care services or need professional assistance in implementing a high-quality telehealth solution, you’re welcome to turn to ScienceSoft’s healthcare IT team.