“Telehealth” is the vet care buzz word of the moment, but aspects of remote care have been around for years. How does it fit into modern pet care, and how can you get your clients onboard?
What is Telehealth?
This catch-all term covers all the technology to deliver health information, care and education remotely. While it may bring to mind robots with video chat capabilities, telehealth can encompass something as simple as a phone call with a client. Here are a few common ways these services are used:
- Using cameras to keep an eye on pets at your clinic, whether by your staff or by clients who want to check up on boarded pets.
- Sending prescription information electronically to pharmacies.
- Contacting a specialist or other consultant via phone, email or chat.
- Determining if an animal needs to be brought in via phone or video chat.
- Providing health care tips on a website.
- Monitoring remote equipment, like glucose monitors.
Telemedicine is sometimes rolled into telehealth. This category deals strictly with clinical diagnosis and monitoring. As the use of remote access has spread to more categories, the term “telemedicine” has fallen out of favor.
Teleheath doesn’t replace clinic visits, but it adds supplemental care that can reduce unnecessary visits, improve pet health and make visits easier. Now that almost everyone has a smartphone, it’s easy to deliver these services to your clients.
How Does It Benefit My Clinic and My Patients?
For clients, it gives them easier access to your services, increasing their overall happiness and compliance. For clinics, it gives you easier access to their pets and faster, easier access to consultants and health care partners, which lets you offer better health care.
Is It Legal? Am I Covered for Liability?
Laws vary state to state, so it’s best to check with your local board before adding services. This is mostly a question of how you implement care options rather than if you offer them. In general, specific advice can only be given if there is a previous veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR), but general advice can be made available to anyone. Communications also need to be treated the same way as in-clinic visits with steps in place to protect patient and client information.
From a liability standpoint, if there is an established VCPR, telehealth services are usually treated identically to in-clinic care, but insurance won’t automatically cover remote consultations. Your insurance provider should be able to provide you with a consultation for covering this new liability. Likewise, clients also may or may not be covered for consultations by their own pet care insurance.
What Should I Consider When Adding Services?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution: selecting telehealth services is a matter of what best fits your clinic and what you’re comfortable with. For example, being able to see the animal via video chat will be most useful if you deal with pets that are a long distance away from your clinic or are difficult to bring in.
It’s important that all communications are secure, and these communications are archived, whether they’re video, emails, texts or chat sessions.
Some services will give you access to health care specialists for consulting. Consider who you’ll have access to and their credentials: if you don’t feel like their advice will be useful, the service is probably not worth having.
Telehealth providers should have promotional materials that you can integrate into your clinic’s own advertising. Try out their apps and services to see if they’re easy to learn, and if they offer enough information to clients to make use of them.
How Do I Promote These New Services?
Educate your clients: Simply offering services isn’t enough to get clients on-board. They need to understand how to use these new services, and when they should be used.
Add access information to your mailers and prescription labels: As with any clinic information, having a paper copy on hand makes it easy to retrieve when needed. It may be months before they need to have their pet checked out, or remember that they can fill a prescription online to pick up at your clinic.
Build on what the service provider already offers: They should offer tutorials and help that your clients should access, so be sure to point your clients in that direction.
We Can Help You Get the Message Out
Positive Impressions, LLC has helped veterinary hospitals and clinics keep in contact with their clients for over a decade. We offer custom printing services for our reminder cards and veterinary prescription labels, making it easy to keep your clinic information on hand, whether your clients receive a birthday card or an appointment reminder. To see how we can help you keep in touch with clients and promote your clinic, make sure to check out our latest specials and most popular products.