We talked to Eleanor Green, DVM, DACVIM (Large Animal), DABVP (Equine Practice), about veterinary telemedicine In Episode 48 of The Business of Practice podcast. She reminded the audience that telemedicine is any care provided remotely, no matter the medium.
“This is a natural evolution of health care in a digital world,” Green said.
She gave the example that a horse in West Texas might have a laceration of the forearm. A veterinarian might be 50 miles away, and an equine veterinarian might be 100 miles away. “And they are not available, and there are no appointments available for two weeks,” added Green.
The options might include the owner include hauling the horse to the clinic—but his/her trailer is broken.
“A telemedicine call with zoom video is a good way to start,” said Green. “A technician could take the call, then discuss the findings with the vet. If the horse doesn’t need sutures, then advice on handling the injury can be given.
“You can also use telemedicine for following up!,” she stated.
Green said a colic case can be handled the same. The veterinarian can observe the horse and make recommendations. Then the vet can follow up.
“Telemedicine expands the vet’s reach and allows care to be provided,” said Green. “We know there is an emotional toll when we can’t help” the animals, she added.
Flexibility of Practice
Green said think of telemedicine not as solving the burdens of a busy vet team, but providing some flexibility.
“Associates can work from home” with telemedicine options, she noted.
Green emphasized that telemedicine is especially important in rural areas where there is a lack of vets. She added that telemedicine also allows horse owners access to the best equine vets through their own vets (as a consult on a case).
“Vets usually give advice away, but this is a way for vets to get rewarded [paid] for practice,” said Green.
Get Started with Telemedicine
Green recommended that any equine vet interested in practicing telemedicine check out the Virtual Veterinary Care Association. She said the VVCA has many resources such as best practices, legal and ethical issues, consent forms, a front-desk guide and telemedicine flow charts.
Other items each veterinarian needs to consider are how staff is included, what training they need, and crafting a workable plan for telemedicine in your practice. She also said you need to know what the rules are in your state.
Green said equine veterinarians providing telemedicine care also need to alert their malpractice insurance provider.
“Telemedicine is positioned to become a standard service with human medicine,” said Green. “Human patients are animal owners. So they will expect that for their animals.
“Telemedicine is fundamental to [animal] health care,” she stated.
Green noted that in human studies about telemedicine, 80% of patients are satisfied, saying it is easier to get care. And 50% of patients said they would switch to a provider who offers telemedicine appointments.
You can learn much more about equine veterinarians providing telemedicine services to their clients in this podcast. From how telemedicine can help attract and retain young equine vets to more fully utilizing trained veterinary technicians.
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