Telemedicine is an increasingly important tool in the human world – linking patients to doctors or specialists – regardless of where they are located. Indeed, both parties may be based on the opposite side of the world.

Equine Professional Georgina Izatt looks at some of the benefits presented by Telemedicine in this space with particular regard to post treatments.

Given that we know the benefits of telemedicine for human patients and their doctors, can those same positives be extended to the veterinary world? How can telemedicine be of benefit to vets as well as their four legged patients?

The answer – it can benefit vets in many ways.

Time saving- It can save the vets time, especially in the case of vets who deal with larger animals such as farm animals and equines. Rather than the vet having to call out to the farm or equestrian centre, they can do an initial consultation via a telemedicine platform. Using the video consult they can determine the severity of the case and whether they need to call out for a physical examination. It may be possible to conclude the consultation purely online without the need for the vet to attend the animal.

Easier follow-ups- It allows vets to schedule follow-up appointments at a time that suits both the vet and the client. Follow-up appointments are routine and normally just a ‘check-in’ to monitor the animal’s progress. By having to call out to the animal (farm animal or equine) or have the owner bring the animal (companion animal) it raises the cost for the owner as well as the time needed to be taken out of work etc. to meet the vet or bring the animal to the vet. Plus if the vet is delayed by an emergency case the animal owner may end up hanging around for longer than desired. By scheduling a follow-up appointment through a telemedicine style program it saves everyone time and money. The follow-up can be done at a time that suits everyone and the vet can prioritise emergency cases that need a physical examination during the working day.

Better connections- If a vet is struggling with an animal because it may have some very unique and strange problems, the owner can easily seek out specialists and then work with their vet and the help of a specialist. The specialist may be located across the country or even the world, but through the use of telemedicine the original vet can now help the animal, all without losing a client. It enables vets to work together with specialists in different areas and countries to provide an extremely well rounded care for our animals. After all as the saying goes – ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, the same can be said of animals, especially working and competing animals!

Reaching far and wide- Another great benefit for vets is that clients who are further away can use telemedicine for a consultation with the vet to assess the animal and to see whether the vet needs to make the long trip to the animal. It can be done quickly and easily, so that if the vet is needed urgently they know exactly what they need to bring and they are sure it won’t be a wasted trip. Also when weather conditions are bad or treacherous (such as the snow we had here in Ireland this past winter), the vets would be able to offer a consultation and advise best on what is needed to do until the roads were drivable again. It will also be a huge benefit to specialist vets as they can now aid so many animals far and wide through the use of telemedicine.

Peer to peer aid for vets – Vets tend to work in vacuums or in small practices. To consult with other vets for particular animal client would be unusual in practice.  If a particular case was troublesome for a vet they may still carry to diagnose and cure the condition and only as a last resort bring in another professional.  This would be for reasons of cost but also could include distance, professional rivalry, potential loss of client etc. In the case of telemedicine it would be much easier to bring in a specialist and co-consult. The residing vet would be able to interpret the specialist’s recommendations and advice. It is much less intrusive and would be seen to give an advantage to the residing vet rather than diminishing their authority.

Written in cooperation with Petlife

For more information, visit the Petlife website

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