Woman in telehealth appointment.

Telemedicine isn’t a new concept in the healthcare industry, though until recently, in-person visits were the standard method of connecting with a provider. But since the start of the pandemic, telehealth has experienced a surge as patients and providers seek a socially distant option for appointments. For busy veterinary practices, offering this service in place of wellness visits can allow veterinarians and veterinary technicians to effectively see and treat more clients, potentially increasing revenue and allowing the practice to thrive throughout and after the pandemic.

The benefits of telehealth

Currently, the clearest benefit of implementing a telehealth appointment at your practice is the fact that it offers one more safeguard for employees and clients against the spread of the coronavirus. However, the benefits of using telehealth are more far-reaching than just a pandemic safety measure. It can make a positive impact on client retention rates, increase wellness visits, and play a part in ensuring that all pets are seen by a vet or veterinary technician regularly.

Between 40 to 50% of pet owners don’t regularly take their pet to the vet. A Bayer study also found that, while it’s recommended for even healthy animals to visit the veterinarian at least once per year, 40% of cats and 15% of dogs go more than a year between visits. Offering an option that doesn’t require travel or time off work can make it more likely that a client will seek out wellness visits, drastically reducing their stress while ensuring that the pet receives quality preventative care. Additionally, telemedicine can act as a sort of triage step that frees up a veterinarian’s time to see the most in-need patients at the office. With the recent influx of new pet owners during the pandemic, veterinary clinics are swamped handling as many appointments as possible. Telehealth can ease the burden of a packed schedule for veterinary healthcare teams by allowing those who can complete their appointment remotely.

How to effectively implement telehealth at your practice

Implementing a successful telehealth strategy at your practice is essential to handling the influx of appointments vet offices are seeing during the pandemic. With an effective strategy in place, you can see clients efficiently, while still focusing on quality of care for pets and their owners. In order to use telehealth, follow these best practices.

  1. Understand the regulations in place around offering telemedicine services. The AVMA, as well as most states, require a valid and established veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) in order to offer telehealth appointments and prescribe medication over digitally. What this means is that most practices cannot offer telehealth as a service for new patients. Implementing telehealth appoints for existing patients may increase the number of wellness appointments, it frees up time for intaking new patients.
  2. Determine how you’ll offer telemedicine. There are a variety of third-party programs that facilitate telehealth appointments, which can help you streamline the digital services you’ll offer. For smaller practices, using resources like video chat can be the best option.
  3. Decide what services you’ll offer. How will you utilize telehealth? Wellness appointments, post-operation follow-ups, and even basic care exams can be easily done over video chat services.
  4. Make sure your clients know telehealth is an option. When scheduling appointments for established clients, veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians should be trained to know when to offer telehealth. Simple, visually diagnosable issues and wellness exams can often be done via telehealth appointments if the pet owner is comfortable with it.

Training your staff on how to best talk about telehealth services is vital to the success of a telemedicine strategy.

Credentialed veterinary technicians can help make telehealth successful

Veterinary technicians are trained to handle some basic exams and client education, so utilizing them to their full capabilities can help when running a successful telehealth service. Understanding what they can and can’t do in your state can allow you to establish procedures to handle basic exams for in-person patients while veterinarians handle telehealth appointments. In order to have your technicians working to their full capabilities, they need to be licensed or credentialed.

An investment in telehealth is a worthy measure, as is investing in training to help your employees facilitate the technology seamlessly. While many states may not currently require credentialing for veterinary technicians to begin working, offering a path toward certification can help your practice handle an influx of appointments while also improving employee retention. Penn Foster’s online Veterinary Academy offers flexible courses that can prepare your employees to take on more work, around their current schedule. Contact a training expert today to find the program that’s right for your practice needs.