The COVID-19 pandemic brought a wave of technological innovation, making the need for virtual services even more important. Coupled with the relaxation of state regulations and the pandemic restrictions on personal interactions, the use of telemedicine has increased significantly from a few visits per week to now well over a million.
While veterinary telemedicine is no substitute for regular office visits (and most veterinarians in telemedicine services cannot prescribe medication or diagnose new patients), this new method of treatment can certainly help veterinarians provide insightful advice to pet owners and save time spent searching is used after non-emergency care.
Industry experts believe that telemedicine will remain an integral part of veterinary care long after the pandemic. Ergo, now is the ideal time for veterinary practices to expand their range to include telemedicine. Here is how.
1. Integrate technology to optimize the customer experience
Rapid innovation in all areas of healthcare is critical to ensuring that telemedicine is reaching its optimal potential. Veterinary medicine is not lagging behind either. Forward-thinking veterinarians are looking for ways to enhance their customers’ experience on telemedicine platforms. This is a factor that will go a long way in deciding who will survive and keep their virtual platform equally active even after COVID-19 wears off.
Some of the most useful and advanced telemedicine solutions veterinarians can incorporate into their practice include:
- Mobile apps: In the increasingly mobile world we currently live in, any doctor who does not have a mobile app available is likely to lose many of their potential clients to competitors. Veterinarians are no exception!
- A telemedicine application can give your customers a greater sense of engagement. This is especially true as they can easily call you for help anytime with videos, photos, or text messages describing the affected area on their pet’s body or newly acquired symptoms.
- A mobile app can also help you send important updates to pet parents via push notifications. You can use this feature to remind them of an upcoming appointment or even the medication you have prescribed.
- Wearables and remote patient monitoring (RPM): Pet wearables, combined with Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) technology, can help extend a veterinarian’s reach beyond the four walls of their practice by seeing the effects of their treatment recommendations in real time.
- In conjunction with a telemedicine platform, these solutions can continuously provide objective insights into the condition of the animal, which can be of great advantage in chronic diseases. These insights can greatly help veterinarians improve outcomes while building strong relationships with their patients.
- Cloud based software: The goal of integrating cloud software with telemedicine in veterinary medicine is to give veterinarians more time to care for pets, which in turn can improve outcomes for the animals.
- With cloud solutions, you can pay for the resources you need when you need them, while scaling as your practice expands. They also offer optimal cybersecurity and always keep your data compliant.
Aside from the 3 solutions, there are many other ways that veterinarians can use the technology to optimize the patient experience. This will make pet owners come back to you and indirectly help improve the bottom line of your practice.
2. Build a robust social media presence to expand your reach
If you’re looking for ways to use telemedicine to grow practice and expand your practice’s reach and engagement, then a good first step is to market your clinic on social media.
Currently, the US has one of the highest social network penetration rates in the world. In 2020, over 223 million Americans used social networks. With that in mind, imagine how many new prospects you can reach by simply presenting yourself on these channels?
So how exactly do you get started? It’s easy. Just follow these steps:
- Take the time to analyze your existing online presence (e.g. website, public forums). When this is done, watch it from a customer’s point of view and try to understand what brings them to you initially and what would encourage them to keep coming back.
- Prospects also make quick decisions based on interactions; Therefore, develop your social media pages to be conversational that encourage discussion and feedback.
- Do you know what exactly are pet owners doing online? Typically, owners spend time online learning about their pets, shopping for answers, and interacting with other pet owners, to name a few. So spend some time looking at competitor websites. Then use your “first impression” instincts to make a list of what should and should not be included on your telemedicine platform.
- Provide information about visits / aftercare on your telemedicine app / website so customers can review it either before or after their visit. New customer / pet forms can also be added to speed up the first visit and introduce new customers to your telemedicine platform.
- Incorporating content marketing into your social media growth strategy is another great way to get promised results when it comes to getting exposure.
CurveBreak, a leading content marketing agency based in North Carolina, insightfully mentioned the following in an article on Human Healthcare Marketing:
“A healthy content marketing strategy must keep the patient in focus. Don’t overlook the human element. The content you create must take into account the needs of the patient and offer significant added value instead of doing too much self-promotion. “
For veterinarians, this means that they can have something as simple as a “questions and answers” or “blog” section within the telemedicine app / website itself that covers the most common questions and concerns. Make sure you also regularly share all of this content on your social media channels.
The content you present in these articles, if well worded, can help attract potential customers through search engines and your social media channels.
Take that away
Every practice is different and unique. So what works for one may not work equally well for another. However, the techniques mentioned in this article are certainly among the few best practices that have shown their potential universally and, for many, have provided timely results.
As a forward-thinking veterinary executive, you must constantly be on the lookout for ways in which you can incorporate cutting-edge technological innovations into your practice to make the customer experience as smooth as possible while focusing on your growth and expansion in the process. Remember, it may seem like a lot of work right now, but once you get established the results will be just as rewarding.
Samantha Vitale, DVM, MS, is a neurologist and co-founder of Cloud Animal Health, an online marketplace where primary care veterinarians can connect with specialists who provide virtual counseling and other bespoke services.