How Vet Telehealth Appointments Break Down Barriers to Care
Posted by Des Sinkevich on July 18, 2022
69 million Americans own at least one dog in 2022, while 45.3 million own at least one cat. The sad news is that only about 27% of those pets see a veterinarian regularly. While the number of vet visits has increased since the pandemic – more pet parents are focusing on their animal’s overall health and wellness – there are still millions of pets that rarely, if ever, see the inside of a veterinary practice. This isn’t due to a lack of care; almost all pet owners consider their animals to be a real part of their family. Infrequent veterinary care is often a problem because of the seemingly insurmountable barriers that pet owners face.
What prevents clients from scheduling regular vet appointments?
Like humans, pets need scheduled checkups in order to keep them healthy and happy; preventative healthcare is essential to maintaining wellness. However, pet owners will neglect taking their pets to regular vet appointments for a variety of reasons, including simply assuming that an animal doesn’t need to see the vet unless there’s an apparent problem that needs to be addressed. Understanding the underlying reasons why pet parents hesitate to schedule regular veterinary visits is vital to attracting new clients, growing your practice, and help more pets. The barriers standing in the way of routine veterinary healthcare include:
- Lack of transportation
- Lack of proper equipment
1. Clients worry about what the veterinarian thinks of them
Pet parents who are aware that animals should visit the vet at least once a year, if not more, will often avoid taking their pet to the vet because they’re embarrassed that they haven’t done so before. Will the vet think I don’t care about my pet, they wonder. What if they decide I'm not a good caregiver? These fears will keep potential clients away and, in the long term, be even more detrimental to a pet’s health.
Besides fearing what a vet and their staff may think of them as pet owners, they may also hesitate to make an appointment because they’re embarrassed that they may not be able to afford the cost of the visit.
2. The cost of vet visits can keep potential clients away
The average cost of a vet visit for dogs can run anywhere from $50 to $300, while checkups for cats can range between $90 to $200. If a pet needs additional tests, medication, or vaccinations, that cost can steadily increase. For many pet owners, that cost can be a barrier to seeking regular veterinary care while many others simply can’t afford it at all.
3. Lack of transportation to the vet makes regular visits difficult
One huge barrier that prevents clients from scheduling appointments is a lack of viable transportation to the clinic. Those without a vehicle will find it difficult, if not impossible, to use public transportation like subways and buses to make a veterinary appointment. Many forms of public transportation will not allow pets, even those that are safely caged or carried. The same problem can be found in rideshares – most drivers don’t want pets they don’t know in their cars.
Without a reliable way to get their pets to the office, pet parents will often avoid making appointments unless in the case of emergencies.
4. Lack of the equipment needed to transport pets
Another barrier to regular veterinary care is a lack of the necessary equipment and supplies to safely transport the pet to a veterinary clinic. Further, many vet offices require patients to be in crates, carriers, or leashed while in the waiting room. Without the right equipment, a pet owner may choose not to regularly visit the vet because of the inconvenience.
The benefits of telehealth in veterinary medicine
Implementing telemedicine in your practice could address and solve for the barriers that prevent clients from seeking preventative healthcare for their pets. Telehealth appointments can break down barriers in the following ways:
- Cost. Telehealth visits are often less expensive than clinic visits, both in terms of appointment cost and travel expenses. Clients don’t have to worry about gas for their vehicle, payment for public transportation, or rideshare fees. With the option of telehealth appointments for non-emergency issues, clients who avoid the vet due to cost are more likely to make and keep regular vet visits.
- Transportation. Besides decreasing the cost to get to the vet and the price of vet appointments, telehealth negates the need for transportation to and from the veterinary clinic. With telehealth appointments, the vet or vet techs can speak with a client and examine a patient from the comfort of the client’s home. Being in the comfort of home may also cut down on any embarrassment concerns.
- Equipment. Since telehealth appointments take place at home, through video conferencing or phone call, there’s no need for leashes and pet carriers, easing one stressor that can prevent pet owners from seeking regular veterinary care.
Telehealth appointments also benefit the veterinary practice itself. Besides bringing in more clients, telehealth visits for standard checkups and exams can ease a stressful workload for practice staff and make more time for emergency cases.
Prepare your practice staff for telehealth services
Telehealth services can only benefit your veterinary practice, but is your staff ready to take on the changes that come with telemedicine? While your veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants may be skilled and trained to excel in the day-to-day work of a standard veterinary clinic, telehealth services can bring new challenges. From understanding the regulations around providing telehealth appointments to properly using telehealth platforms, preparing your practice staff to take on this new challenge can ensure that the implementation of this service is successful.
Through online Veterinary Telehealth Training, your vet techs and vet assistants can develop the skills that will allow your practice to start and maintain an effective telehealth service. In Penn Foster’s certificate program, your staff will learn about legal regulations, teletriage, and effective workflow – all around the busy clinic workday.
To learn more about implementing telehealth appointments in your practice and upskill your practice staff, reach out to our training experts today!