Published 11/05/2020

Virtual Care for Veterinary Practices During COVID-19

veterinarian looking at phone telehealth
During the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been spending more time at home. As a result, there has been a substantial increase in the number of pets that are being adopted, with the ASPCA reporting a 70% jump in the number of pets going into foster care. In turn, veterinary clinics and animal hospitals across the country have also experienced a significant - at times overwhelming- increase in their call volume and appointments.

Clinic life is often stressful, and the daily “firehose” of phone calls is a big contributor. Virtual care is one way to reduce this call volume by providing alternative routes for effective client communication.

To deal with the increased demand, veterinarians are seeing the benefits of telehealth technology and implementing virtual visits to their practice. With increased communication, this technology allows vets to do their part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 while allowing them to continue to give the best care to their pet patients. 

What is telehealth? How is it different from telemedicine?

  • Telehealth is a general term that refers to all uses of technology that are geared towards the remote delivery of health information, education, and/or care.
  • Telemedicine is a subcategory of telehealth that involves remotely diagnosing and treating conditions for a specific pet (i.e. using an app to communicate with a pet owner for a follow-up exam or discussion about medication). Because telemedicine involves diagnosis and prescribing, it requires a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). 

Veterinarians have been practicing telehealth for a long time. Anytime they give general advice or triage over the phone, they are conducting telehealth. Veterinarians who use PetPro Connect have told us

“Modern tools just make the telehealth process easier by introducing photos, video, and chat functions that can integrate with your practice software.”

How Can I Use Telehealth in My Veterinary Practice?

To utilize veterinary telehealth, a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) must be established. If a VCPR does not exist, a veterinarian can provide advice and triage, but they cannot diagnose, provide prognoses for, or treat any patients.

With a VCPR in place, you are then able to integrate telemedicine into your offered services and utilize all of the tools that encompass telehealth into your practice.

For more information on VCPR requirements for offering telehealth, click here

With a VCPR in place, vets can use telehealth for the following services:

  • Post-surgical Care
  • General Wellness Advice
  • Hospice Care
  • Behavior Issues
  • Basic triage (whether the pet should be seen by the veterinarian)
  • Environmental concerns/hazards
  • Long-term care monitoring

Introducing virtual care in a practice doesn’t mean opting for virtual visits over in-person care. Veterinarians who use PetPro Connect tell us,

“It’s about adding tools to your clinical toolbox to serve your clients in a way they value while also enabling your staff to work more efficiently.” 

What are the Benefits of Telehealth for Veterinarians?

While telehealth can minimize the exposure of COVID-19 to your staff and patients, there are many other benefits that this technology can offer your practice moving forward. These include:

  • Flexibility for clients who have busy schedules and prefer virtual communication while staying at home
  • Reducing the burden of front staff by decreasing cumbersome phone calls
  • Time and stress in the waiting room is decreased because fewer pets are having physical visits
  • The ability to provide services for those who are in underserved or remote areas
  • Higher visitation rates and revenue
  • Overall increased efficiency for staff and patients

How do I Set Up Telehealth in My Practice?

To implement telehealth into your veterinary practice, there are certain steps you need to take.

  • Review the requirements and regulations that are specific to your state, territory, or country
  • Ensure that you are VCPR compliant
  • Familiarize yourself with the AVMA Policy on Telemedicine
  • While there are a few different telehealth providers currently available in the market, it is best to pick a provider that meets the needs of you, your practice, and your patients. Here are two options that we offer:
    • PetPro Tele+: This app gives veterinarians the option to set their own schedules so that patients can schedule appointments directly with their vet. Through this app, you are also able to conduct video appointments or chat only sessions, as well as have patients pay for these services at a rate that you set.
    • PetPro Connect: This app is more collaborative and equips local clinics with a range of tools that allow Veterinarians the ability to request and schedule appointments, communicate with their clients via messaging, offer prescription refills, have access to medical records in real-time, and schedule telemedicine video chats. You also have the option to develop and manage your own client rewards programs, which can increase patient loyalty and overall revenue.
  • Educate and train your staff and clients
  • If needed, you can establish an in-house team dedicated to telemedicine cases
  • Communicate your new telehealth services to new and existing clients
    • Create a communication plan to market these services and include instructions for how to download and use the app
    • Utilize your online presence by promoting the offering of these services on your website and social media pages

Want to learn more about our veterinary telehealth solutions?

To learn more about how PetPro Tele+ and PetPro Connect can help your veterinary practice and increase efficiency during COVID-19, click here.

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