WHERE DO I START?

What steps can you take to integrate Telemedicine into your practice?  First and foremost, let me express how easy this can be to integrate into your existing protocols. For example, telemedicine can be used for triaging phone calls, recheck exam protocols, when the schedule is too busy or you do not have room in the hospital for a drop off, it can be used in place of follow up phone calls, etc.  DON’T MAKE THIS HARD!

  1. Choose the app that works for your practice. How do you want to utilize the app in your established protocols? See the most current list of apps and businesses that have joined the veterinary field of telehealth (this field is changing by the month so please don’t limit your search to just this list on the website).  I also recommend asking yourself what is your "why?"  What problem are you solving with telemedicine, schedule is too busy to add more in house appointments?  work/life balance? improve customer service?  add convience and peace of mind for clients and doctors?  Questions to ask:

    1.   Does it offer secure texting, email, video, video chat?

    2.   Is it easy to use?

    3.   Can you archive and document the consult?  And can the consult be integrated into your practice management software?

    4.   Can you print a copy of the consult?  This is for hospitals that may not be paperless.

    5.    Is it computer and phone compatible?  Is this supported by Anroid and iPhone?

    6.   Does the company provide marketing support?

    7.   Does the company help train staff?

    8.   Does the company have a consent and liability form the client agrees to when signing up?

  2. Research what the app charges you.  Some companies require no fee to sign up and some require a onetime installation fee if they are branding the app to your hospital. Most app companies do require a monthly fee. There are some apps that take a percentage of your transaction, and some do both (a percentage and require a monthly fee). Some apps may charge per doctor or per hospital.  I recommend do your research and see what works for your clinic’s needs.  *Important tip:  if it is Free, it's not really free.  Ask if that free platform shares data with other companies and or if they have access to your client list and use it.

 

AFTER ASKING YOUR QUESTIONS, MAKE A DECISION AND START SETTING UP YOUR PLATFORM

  1. Set up your profile.  Once you choose a company, you will need to set up your profile and your hours, etc.  Most apps will let you control the times and days you are available to receive messages, as well as response time.  Some apps are strictly videochat and some can do both videochat and texting.  Videochat setups may require more time and you may have to have a protocol that uses the front staff.  Questions to ask are do I want business hours and after hours, and how do I want to communicate with my clients (text versus video)?

  2. Set up your price schedule.  All apps are different, but most will let you control what and how you want to charge your clients.   Here is a list of a few pricing strategies used by clinics.

    1. Some veterinarians have a no charge policy for the first consult.  After the first consult, the remainder consults are then charged.

    2. Some practitioners have a package program where the client pays a monthly fee for unlimited/or a set number of messaging consults.

    3. Some vets charge by the minute for video chats or in 10/20-minute increments.

    4. Some veterinarians use a case by case approach.  I, along with many veterinarians, may charge for the messaging service and take that fee off the physical exam if the pet needs to be seen in the hospital.  So essentially, half or a fee similar to a recheck fee is charged through the app, and then it can be applied if the pet is seen in the hospital for the remainder of the exam.

    5. Some veterinary hospitals have a fee for the consult and then charge a full exam fee in house, particularly if another vet is doing the in person exam.

    6. Discuss text consult fees versus video consult fees.  Hint:  video consult fees should be higher because you are spending more time with the client.

    7. Discuss business hour fees versus after hour fees.

  3. Train your staff on how to use, market, and implement this virtual care to your clients.  Even though the apps are geared toward direct contact with the doctor, educate the staff on how the app works for the clients as well as the doctor so they can better assist your clientele.  I also recommend setting up a preliminary protocol for how you want to start using the app and what each team member’s responsibility is.  Start small by picking one or two procedures in which you will start using the app (ex. Surgery rechecks and triage calls).  This will help you and your staff, and your clients get use to communicating thru this modality.  When you feel comfortable, start adding more cases in which you can use the app for.

  4. Reach out to clients and market your service.  Word of mouth, brochures, push notifications thru apps such as Vet2Pet, emails, on invoices, in the exam room, after surgeries, put information in new client/puppy/kitten packets, and on websites/social media outlets.

Sometimes change can be daunting, however, I have learned that if you use existing protocols (like exchanging the telephone call backs and medical case rechecks with telemedicine) and start small then add more case examples each month, the transition to a new way of communication is seamless.