Free time and peace of mind

     In veterinary medicine today there is a lot of discussion on the work life balance and how to improve it.  Connected care is a term that has been thrown around to define how we, as veterinarians and the veterinary community, can connect with our clients and patients using many modalities.  How can we spend more time away from the practice but still offer exceptional customer service and advice to our clients?  We can do this through Telemedicine!  Telemedicine has become a new vehicle for veterinarians to use in their practice to help provide better customer service, compliance of treatment plans, better work life balance, to grow the business, and to give better advice and peace of mind to their clients.  
    There are several telemedicine apps out now for veterinarians to use in the workplace. Within these apps the client and doctor can communicate via asynchronous texting, use of pictures or videos, and video chat.   This helps create a more efficient daily workflow and improves record keeping for the practice. Other benefits include integrated payment system, informed consent and confidentiality, transfer of records, consultation with specialists, prescription refills, and more.
   Regarding medical liability involving telemedicine, a VCPR must be established first.  Please check with your state board to see the VCPR requirements.   Most of the veterinary telemedicine apps are using AVMA guidelines and providing a safe and secure exchange of medical information with informed consent.  However, since this modality of communication is so new to veterinary medicine, each state may not have ruled or set up guidelines. The American Association of Veterinary State Boards is currently taking steps toward the use of telemedicine, however in my research, only Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Texas have statements on their websites regarding this matter.  Most states are agreeable to use telemedicine if a VCPR is established and all medical information is documented.  For additional consent, you can place a statement of liability and consent for exchange of medical records for telemedicine in your established hospital forms.
   
So how can telemedicine help your practice?
1.    Provide convenient service for your clients and their pets. This modality is just another way to improve customer service and set you apart from other clinics! Telemedicine allows clients who can’t physically take their pet to the practice (stay at home moms, elderly, disabled, no transportation) to get fast advice from the doctor as to the care of their pets.  Also, most people are on their phones more than 5 hours a day and to have this convenience is a must!
2.    Work from anywhere.  Telemedicine allows doctors to work anywhere with autonomy and eliminates long office hours.  You get to care for your clients when life takes you out of the office.
3.    Generate new income.  Now we can get paid for our advice and grow our practice at the same time by reaching our clients in a wider geography. 
4.    Peace of mind!  This is true for the client as well as the doctor.  As a doctor, having pictures and videos can help us better diagnose and triage patients and form treatment plans.  Having this kind of connected care ensures your client will have more qualified care from you versus Dr. Google!
5.    Accurate and efficient record keeping.  No more long hours spent in the office writing SOAP notes or client communication.
6.    No extra or added work for the front staff.  With most telemedicine apps, the messages go directly to the doctor versus through the front desk for triage.

7.  Prevents ER Visits.  By triaging your clients pets, you can help minimize unnecessary trips to the ER.  This reduces the clients stress and helps improve the vet-client bond.

8.  Reinforces Pet Education.  Now you can personalize your education and care for your clients pets.

9.  Reduces phone time for staff and increases appointment efficiency by reducing time spent in the exam room taking history.

What kind of opportunities would telemedicine work well in your practice? 
1.    Surgical rechecks.  Post surgical incision site recheck 2-5 days after surgery.  The client can send a picture of the incision and you can evaluate the healing process.
2.    Cat exams!  Owners are unable to bring the cat in without serious battle wounds and stress.
3.    Anxious or fearful dogs that can be hard to handle in the practice setting.
4.    Medical rechecks for chronic or acute issues.  Ear, skin, limping, dental disease, allergies, etc.
5.    When the owner isn’t sure if the problem needs to be seen right away or at their convenience.  Sometimes owners just want to be reassured that their pet will be ok.  It can also save your clients from a large ER bill.
6.    Exotic animal consults.
7.    Potential contagious disease such as Kennel Cough- you don’t want that in your hospital.

8.    When your hospital is full and you have no room to work in a drop off appointment, you can triage the issue through the app.

9.    Seizure updates.  This modality is useful to watch at home video of possible seizures or neurological symptoms.

10.  Curbside or drop off medicine.

    

Once you start using telemedicine in your practice, you will find that it is an efficient and effective way to care for your clients and their pets.  We all want to have more flexibility with our time and telemedicine can help you achieve this!  Now you can give quality care while hiking up a mountain or lying on the beach and get paid for your time and advice!