Published on July 06, 2020
Telemedicine is «the exchange of medical information using digital communications to diagnose, treat or improve a patient’s condition».
The use of telemedicine to provide veterinary services is relatively new, but was already beginning to grow before the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the development of digital communication technologies.*
There are many advantages to virtual consultations:
- Telemedicine can help reduce patients’ anxiety while helping to build their pet parents’ confidence in their health care team.
- Telemedicine can also save time for veterinarians because clinic visits, which are generally longer, can be limited mainly to patients that need to be seen in person (the most urgent cases, for example).
- Clients appreciate the ease and accessibility of telemedicine, and it requires little equipment — all you need is a computer with a camera and a microphone. The technology built into most smart phones, tablets and laptops provides the audio and visual capabilities required for a virtual consultation.
- Virtual interactions facilitate access to care, for example for geographically remote clients or those with reduced mobility.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when setting up telemedicine services:
- Choose a calm area in the clinic, to avoid distractions during the consultations. Pay careful attention to the environment behind you; choose a neutral background, if possible.
- Determine the most suitable platform. There is no standard Canadian veterinary platform. Virtual consultation can be done in many ways: through everyday applications such as Skype and FaceTime, online communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, or through more specialized and comprehensive interfaces specific to medicine. The latter often allow integration of the patient file, which is a significant advantage.
- Establish the list of telemedicine services to be offered.
- Determine an appointment scheduling protocol so that the person planning the consultations knows to whom, and under what circumstances, they can suggest a virtual consultation.
Is a particular case suitable for telemedicine or would it be preferable for the patient to be assessed in the clinic?
- Promote the service. Share information on your website, on your social networks and by email. Mention it in phone calls or send text messages about it.
- Follow our 3 tips to prepare your clients for virtual consultations.
The evolution of online veterinary care has undoubtedly been accelerated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although telemedicine will never replace traditional veterinary medicine, it will play a much more important role in the provision of animal health care services in the future.
Are you currently using telemedicine in your practice?
* Depending on the jurisdiction, virtual appointments may require the existence of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.