Updated: Mar 28
Mrs. Clark (the client) states “I can not drive that far for my Pug to be seen by a specialist, isn’t there another option available?” You stand there with sincere compassion, concern and realize that if you can get the assistance you are up for the challenge. If you can accept the challenge of helping this woman's challenges and heartache needs to be fixed by you, but what if you don’t have the resources to help her, then what?
Whether you are a Veterinarian, Veterinary Technician, Veterinary Assistant, Client Care Associate, or Pet Owner there are challenges that we all are faced with day after day as we attempt to provide the best care for our patients or pets. Are you faced with the frustration of not having a full support network, in other words, are you challenged and stressed by being the one who is expected to have all the answers or make all the decisions?
In this Newsletter, I would like to be up close and personal with you as you should not be alone as you manage your day too-day challenges. Please allow me to share my personal experiences and feelings in writing while being professional and straightforward with some facts. My goal is to help you with challenges within your practice and my style is not to “sugar coat” the delivery.
Allow me to briefly share my journey as perhaps it will resonate with you? I started working in a veterinary hospital as an assistant, any problem I had or my patient had I turned to the Vet Tech as I believed they had all the answers. Once I graduated to being a Vet Tech the problems I had or my patients had, I turned to the Veterinarian as I believed they had all the answers. Recently, I realized the amount of stress that is put on the Vet, the Vet Tech, or anyone that has to make decisions without certainty. Obviously, one person cannot know everything, but without a good support system, they are expected to have all the answers!
When a Veterinarian has a challenging case and they don’t know the answers they may be able to refer it to a Specialty Hospital. This is where the veterinarian field is a little broken. Referring to a Specialist may not be possible because of distance, no appointment available, no such Specialty offering in the region or the clients do not want to be referred. Clients may have cost concerns with regard to referral. Within the human field, it is a no-brainer to see Specialists with insurance being available, but pet care has not reached this level of insured yet. When the pet owner informs the veterinarian of the struggle and challenges it will be for them to see a Specialist what happens then? Now you have a stressed veterinarian dealing with a difficult case that they can’t refer to a specialist but want to do what’s best for their patient and also do what’s best for their client. So now, “the ball is in their court”, what next??!!
Telemedicine has expanded rapidly in the last couple of years, especially with the current pandemic. I was fascinated to learn how long telemedicine has been around. The first recorded telemedicine case was in the early 1960’s where two psychiatric wards worked with each other to help with their respective patients through a closed-circuit channel. Since then, it has evolved, and now telemedicine is more routine in the field of human medicine. The veterinary field is often a little behind and telemedicine has really just begun to gain traction. We are now starting to see telemedicine appointments between veterinarians and their clients. In this regard, clients can ask simple questions, and the veterinarian can free up their office visits for patients who need to be seen in person.
Similarly, the time has come for Vets to get help for their patients using Telemedicine to connect with Specialists. Veterinarians can now easily reduce their stress by getting help with challenging cases virtually and in the same manner this can free up referral appointments for Specialists for those cases that need to be seen in person. This lowers stress to Vets because a second opinion guided by a Specialist makes sure the Pet is getting the proper care. The knowledge gained from the Specialist that shares their expertise not only helps with the current case but future similar cases that the Vet manages and this knowledge trickles down to the support staff and pet owner. An added bonus is that revenue is generated for the practice by performing additional testing recommended by the Specialist.
Perhaps you are intrigued with some questions? How does this new form of telemedicine work? How is it different from telephone consultations with specialists from reference labs? What about VIN message boards? Well here is the big difference between phone and message board consults. Telemedicine offers the possibility of real-time video examinations and patient-centric corroboration in the patient channel which is the next best thing to the patient being examined by the Specialist. The Specialists can get information first hand when they interact with the Vet in a question and answer fashion as the case material is reviewed. This can all happen during the patient’s telemedicine consultation throughout the disease process diagnostic and treatment journey. This type of corroboration is efficient, easy to set up, convenient, and a time saver for all involved. Additionally, all relevant case material including labs, diagnostic images, heart sounds, digital cytology, live guided ultrasound, and many more are possible. When reviewing just case material relayed on a telephone consult or message boards it is biased from the perspective of the Vet relaying the clinical information. This bias can be overcome by the Specialist drawing conclusions from objective evidence presented in the patient-centric channel. This is a real game-changer! Better Medicine Consultants, Better Patient Care, More Informed Vets, and Happy Clients!
Telemedicine is not only here to help Pet Owners connect with their Vets, but it is now here to help Vets connect with Specialists. It can bridge the gap between many Patients that can’t be referred but could be managed virtually by Telemedicine Consults. Since the stress of less than quality care of our patients trickles down to the support staff of our hospitals and to Pet Owners, it would be wise to consider a Telemedicine Consult with a Specialist for a case that needs a second opinion as this not only can help the patient but will relieve stress. It is the same stress that has plagued Vets with sleepless nights and tragic loss of Vets and perhaps the endless loss of Pets' lives. We are all in it together to help and we need support from each other as no one should bear the burden of going through a difficult case challenge alone. I mean this sincerely!
In my upcoming articles, I will be going over different Telemedicine cases and how each case helped solve and help our patients. Please subscribe so you can be part of the new way to practice medicine and start to bridge the current gap by adding the choice of Telemedicine to your Patient’s or Pet’s Healthcare option..