BROOKINGS – Over the past year, there has been a decline in visits to emergency rooms and clinics across the country due to the pandemic as consumers turned to digital health platforms. While telemedicine and telemedicine are becoming more common in the household, it is no stranger to veterinary medicine to use technology in their services.
“I think we did it before it was called telemedicine,” says Dr. Mike’s stepfather, Salem Veterinary Service. “From a time when I started practicing 26 years ago and bought a pager and a pocket phone, it was a pretty important step in enabling mobility so people can reach you on the go. In fact, you could be doing something other than sitting at home and waiting for the phone. In a way, telemedicine started at this point, but it accelerated dramatically with smartphones as I was then able to receive pictures, short videos, phone calls and text messages, which was very important for customers to ask questions. “
Dr. Nathan Iliff, Sisseton Veterinary Service, says while a photo or video can help start a conversation with clients, he prefers to take a more traditional route with technology and discuss pet care needs over the phone.
“Part of the reason I text me is because I have an average of two to four more questions [are]I usually have a few more questions to ask. Then a two-minute conversation turns into a 20-minute tip contract, ”says Iliff. “There’s so much where you know the tone of their voice and things like that, you can tell how excited they are. I just don’t want to do everything outside of a picture because I feel like it is very valuable to see the animal where we can fully question humans and tell them exactly what they need to know. “
The South Dakota Veterinary Examination Board does not have specific guidelines or rules for the use of telemedicine. According to the state veterinarian Dr. However, Dustin Oedekoven should not start the practice until all veterinary-client-patient relationship conditions from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have been met.
“Telemedicine is seen by the board as an instrument that veterinarians can use as part of an established relationship between veterinarian, client and patient,” says Oedekoven. “The board refers to both the AVMA guidelines and the telehealth guidelines of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB).”
While technology has been a staple since day one in stepfather’s practice, he says the biggest area veterinary medicine is lacking is compensation.
“The big problem veterinary medicine has so far is that it lags behind all other professions as we normally don’t charge for time or expertise. So when we take on that role and take that call or text and answer we are practicing medicine and giving advice, ”says stepfather. “This becomes a challenge as there are certain situations, whether it’s a distance (or) schedule conflict, where you already have an appointment that you don’t have time to see the animal in time and you give it up Advice and then there is no compensation. “
With telemedicine growing in popularity, especially on the pet side, stepfather has concerns that customers should turn to websites for consultation, rather than their local veterinarian.
“Some of the bigger drug companies have websites and they have vets who are always available for telemedicine and they may or may not charge for this service, but they try to track drug sales through it.” Stepfather says. “This becomes a competition for your local practitioner. It’s pretty hard to compete with, if if they offer services “so called free,” how are we ever going to be able to compete with them? When you have someone available 24/7, 365 and soon, you are no longer in business and now your local vet is no longer there. “
South Dakota State University professor, SDSU Extension vet, and state public health veterinarian for the South Dakota Department of Health, says Russ Daly, vets across the state have relied on technology over the years to serve clients during blizzards and busy calving seasons support The year can be a good time to re-examine service offerings and customer expectations.
“Of all the professionals in South Dakota, veterinarians are probably the best at connecting with their customers and patients. Late-night calls for help from calving cows and injured dogs have been part of the veterinary practice since the advent of the telephone. With today’s technology, that connection has evolved into a perception among many customers that their vets are available 24/7 to respond to text messages, pictures and videos at no additional cost, ”says Daly.
“While these messages and images can often be useful for general animal care and welfare, pet owners and caretakers should respect the limits their veterinarians place on such communications. In addition, they should understand the value of this communication – and come to terms with compensating their vet for the time spent. Whether it is looking at the animal in a slide or via FaceTime, it is still the practice of medicine and it has value. “
Daly recommends that mixed animal veterinarians establish and communicate guidelines for telemedicine in their practices, including the need to establish a relationship between the veterinarian, client, and patient. The American Veterinary Medical Association has developed AVMA guidelines that can be helpful in developing such plans. Some of them are:
• • The logistics of the practice related to telemedicine, including availability, turnaround time, tariffs and billing.
• Scope of services and what is required in assessing patient progress.
• Records, privacy and security.
• Prescribing guidelines, including compliance with state and federal rules and restrictions.
• • The limits of telemedicine and when it is necessary to recommend personal care.