The Rise of Veterinary Telemedicine
Using Technology to Remotely Deliver Health Information, Education or Care
We are living in revolutionary times for medicine and healthcare. The current crisis has arguably been the biggest driver for digital transformation in recent years. Electronic communications are playing a vital role in the human healthcare sector and veterinary medicine is following suit. The sector is embracing technology in order to stay relevant and improve service in the coming years. While technological advancements offer opportunities to improve the delivery of veterinary care, they also present new challenges for the profession.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Modern technology has enabled professionals to consult patients by using tools such as videoconferencing. This is an emerging area of practice in the veterinary sector. It is a rapidly evolving industry and new forms of telemedicine are developing every day, with the likes of web chats and instant messaging services gaining popularity. It is important to remember, however, that these types of services must be conducted within an appropriate legal and regulatory framework in order to safeguard the health and welfare of animals, and to maintain public confidence in the veterinary profession.
How Have Veterinary Practices Embraced Telemedicine During Lockdown?
New procedures have been implemented by veterinary practices across the UK since the beginning of lockdown. This has led to fewer people entering the practice and more routine check-ups being conducted using telemedicine.
The primary focus of this decision was to stop the spread of COVID-19 but for many, the process has been quicker and more cost-effective too. It has also saved the animals from the stress of travelling in the car or an unnecessary trip to the vet.
What Does this Mean for the Future of Veterinary Medicine?
As the pace of digitisation increases and the industry continues to invest in technology, the future potential and opportunities within telemedicine seem to be endless. For example, data can be harvested and used in a way that would allow pet owners access to specialist vets via teleconferencing or be warned of health trends in their local area.
The owner of a Labrador, for example, living in the North of England could speak directly to a veterinary surgeon in London who specialises in hip replacement operations. They would have already been warned via a digital alert of their pet’s genetic disposition to hip dysplasia and they are regularly provided with dietary advice to help limit the risk.
As well as having the potential to lower insurance premiums, digitising the process reduces strain on local veterinary practices. Meanwhile, through harnessing the power of digital platforms, veterinary telemedicine provides pet owners with quick and easy access to the knowledge they require.