It’s no secret that technology is changing the veterinary landscape. Here’s what’s on the horizon and why you need to keep up, writes Rachel Smith
Ask any vet who’s been in business over 30 years or more, and they’re likely to have seen a lot of changes in their time—not least on the tech side. A growing pet wearables industry, hi-tech in-clinic monitoring, an expansion in telemedicine and on-the-ground technological advances to help your practice run more smoothly mean the veterinary industry is undergoing a rapid transformation.
That said, technology and the internet has also put a huge amount of information at the fingertips of pet owners, and that’s not always a good thing—so it’s even more imperative that veterinarians stay one step ahead of the curve.
The importance of a tech-savvy practice
While adopting new technology in your practice can be a learning curve, it’s key in maximising profit and boosting efficiency. New systems might include using cloud technology for online bookings, staff rosters and patient records (accessible both in the practice and on a device if you’re working on an emergency call-out). It might mean putting automated customer reminder SMS messages in place. And if you’re yet to get a website—well, you should, says Darren Hobbs from Vet Web Marketing.
“Ten years ago, you’d maybe find a handful of veterinary practices that had a website,” he explains. “Now, having a website is like making sure you have a front door at your business. In terms of other tech, I do think more practices could benefit from using email marketing and ensuring their clinic’s website is SEO-optimised. Overall, it’s paramount these days to use technology to advertise your business and streamline your backend processes. If you don’t, you run the risk of falling behind. Remember Toys “R” Us? Their lack of online presence and under-utilising technology to provide a better customer experience was a contributor to their downfall—and we all know what happened there.”
(If you missed it, this time last year, Toys “R” Us went into liquidation and closed thousands of stores around the world.)
The rise in telemedicine
Telemedicine for pets is nothing new, but better broadband services and the rise of the smartphone has meant the industry is expanding quickly—and savvy vets who offer Skype consultations for remote clients or those who can’t make it into the clinic can open up another potential income stream for their practice.
“In the ‘human’ space it’s estimated that six billion people will have access to telehealth services by 2025, so it’s only natural they’ll want the same convenience and value for their pets,” says Dr Claire Jenkins, CEO and founder of Vetchat, an online vet consultation service which employs seven vets who work from home (outside of their clinic hours) fielding calls from pet owners with an issue.
Dr Jenkins started Vetchat in a bid to make quality pet care more accessible. “There’s no doubt that a hands-on examination of a patient is the gold standard—and in emergency situations telehealth isn’t appropriate, but it’s a complementary offering to bricks and mortar services,” she explains. “And, in areas or times when there is no contactable vet, at least pet carers can receive support that is not available otherwise.”
It’s a fact that we’re all more data obsessed than ever—and the global demand for pet wearables isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, the market is projected to be worth US $2.3 billion by 2022—thanks to advancements in wireless area networks, sensors, and smartphone digital maps. Could pet owners start to demand that vets personalise care for Fluffy the dog based on her Fitbit data? Dr Jenkins thinks so.
“The pet wearable we’ve developed will enable vets to monitor animals while they’re awake. They can put the device on the animal when it comes in and measure key vital signs wirelessly.”
Gabrielle Browne, founder, The Wireless Zoo
“As wearables technology improves and cost reduces, pet parents will have easy access to these monitoring devices to detect changes in lifestyle and vitals even earlier, leading to veterinary intervention and further improving health outcomes for pets.”
A B2B tech solution is also on the way that’s set to take the guesswork out of hi-tech animal monitoring in a clinical environment. Founder Gabrielle Browne from The Wireless Zoo is soon to launch a perioperative monitoring device that she says is set to solve a big problem for vets.
“Forget probes, lineal clips or trying to find a place on the animal to connect the device,” she explains. “The pet wearable we’ve developed will enable vets to monitor animals while they’re awake. They can put the device on the animal when it comes in and measure key vital signs wirelessly such as heart rate, pulse oximetry, and internal temperature and get better baselines on that animal. The device can stay on through surgical procedures to compliment current monitoring methods and will continue to monitor post-surgical in recovery or remote recovery at home.”
Currently this type of monitoring might be done by staff, so it’s set to make your practice more efficient, explains Browne. The other plus is that device will collate breed or drug-specific data, surgery-specific trends and other analytics which will all feed into a global cloud database.
“We’ll then be able to gear research and treatments towards certain things that might be breed-specific—so you might find a certain medication works better on a certain breed.”
The device will also create a better revenue stream for vets as they can show the owner why there’s a monitoring charge. If the monitoring continues remotely at home, vets can still charge a fee and receive instant alerts which will also save on staffing costs. Pet owners will also save money on overnight vet stays.
“There are so many more opportunities these days thanks to technology cloud-based services, and remote wi-fi,” says Browne, “and because all of this is now getting more streamlined and accessible, it’s a given that it would filter into the animal industry.”