After navigating the ins and outs of curbside care for the last year, you may have already jumped on the telemedicine bandwagon. And, while it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic is loosening its grasp because of more widespread vaccination, veterinary telemedicine is here to stay. Pet owners want the convenience of care offered by the myriad virtual care apps, whether it’s paying a $30 flat fee to speak to any veterinarian about their pet’s condition, or engaging in a video chat with their regular veterinarian.
If you haven’t already discovered the right veterinary telemedicine platform for your practice, you could be losing clients.
What should I look for in a veterinary telemedicine platform?
Before diving headfirst into choosing the perfect platform for your practice, consider what you’re looking to add. Are you interested in a telemedicine platform only, or a more encompassing virtual-care service that offers a variety of features? Make a list of the features that are important for your team, clients, and practice. For a true, all-in-one system that can stand alone or integrate into your practice management software, you’ll need the following features to be successful:
Safe and secure platform
When choosing the optimal telemedicine platform for your practice, ensure the technology is secure for the exchange of sensitive medical information. This feature requires an in-depth infrastructure that supports the demands of critical and confidential information and medical records.
Ease of use
If a platform is too difficult to navigate or manage, you, your team, and your clients may become frustrated and want to give up. If your team isn’t on board from the beginning because the platform seems convoluted and difficult to operate, your telemedicine services will never get off the ground. Weed out platforms that require too many steps, clicks, or screens to avoid a confusing learning process, for both your clients and team.
When discussing your patient’s case with their owner through a two-way message, you need to be able to easily save that conversation. Determine if your chosen platform has the ability to record and document teletriage and telemedicine conversations with clients. Is it an easy process, or does it require multiple steps? Can you quickly integrate these notes into your practice management software, or is this a time-consuming process? Ease of documentation is a must to maintain a valid VCPR, which is still an essential relationship for practicing telemedicine.
Every veterinary hospital is different and has their own unique policies and workflows. Being able to customize your telemedicine platform is certainly a game changer in making it as successful as possible. For example, can you set different hours, fees, doctors, and technicians for certain appointment types? Can you customize your settings, and provide features that are important to your practice, such as appointment reminders, live video calls, or asynchronous texting? A rigid and uncustomizable telemedicine platform can quickly make your foray into virtual care a flop.
“How are fees collected?” is one of the biggest questions veterinarians and practice managers have when beginning their telemedicine journey. After all, you’ve likely been handing out free advice over social media, text message, and email for years before signing up for a telemedicine platform. With a successful platform, you can easily and efficiently collect fees through a secure virtual payment feature.
I get it—technology can be incredibly confusing, especially when you’re implementing a totally new service. Having an excellent customer service and technological support team at your back is a must for a successful telemedicine platform. Even better, they’ll have dedicated support staff who will go above and beyond to help you succeed.
What’s the difference between a telemedicine platform and an all-in-one option?
When looking for your ideal telemedicine or virtual care platform, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Telemedicine platforms only provide technology for communicating with clients via asynchronous texting and/or live video. Telemedicine apps are usually well thought out and the technology is a high standard. They only focus on one aspect of an overarching virtual care platform, so they can put all their resources into this one communication line.
Virtual care platforms typically encompass more features, such as appointment reminders and loyalty programs. With the multiple communication lines and technology features virtual care platforms must maintain, their services are much more robust. These platforms provide everything a veterinary hospital needs to communicate with its clients, eliminating the need for multiple apps and services that can be confusing for staff and clients. The downside to having such a well-rounded platform is that it may not be as tech-savvy as the telemedicine-only apps.
Check out the chart below that identifies the key features of the leading platforms. To help you decide whether a telemedicine platform is sufficient, or if a comprehensive virtual care option is necessary, determine which aspects are most beneficial for your practice.
How can I make my veterinary telemedicine platform successful?
There are three essentials for making your telemedicine platform successful, during kickoff and beyond:
- An interested team member who is willing to learn and understand the ins and outs of a new communication tool is a must for implementing telemedicine services.
- You need to set expectations and divvy up responsibilities for the team with a staff meeting. Practice using your platform as a client and as a team member during your meeting to ensure everyone is comfortable before going live.
- Market your new telemedicine platform! How will your clients know the services you offer if you don’t share the news through social media, email, or in-hospital updates?
Veterinary telemedicine can be a confusing trip down a rabbit hole, but taking that first step can lead to a more efficient team, increased revenue for your practice, and more satisfied clients. Determine whether you need a basic telemedicine platform or a more well-rounded all-in-one service to meet your practice’s needs, test drive a few top options, then get your team on board before you go live with your chosen platform. The best thing you can do is to simply get started, and avoid letting indecision paralyze you.
Check out Vet2Pet’s Telemedicine Masterclass for more information! Current Vet2Pet clients can view it in App Academy. Not a Vet2Pet client? Watch the Masterclass in Vet2Pet On Demand.
Need help determining which features will best suit your practice’s needs to get your telemedicine program up and running? Schedule a 30-minute demo with the Vet2Pet team to begin your virtual care journey!
Dr. Crista Wallis
Dr. Crista Wallis graduated from Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. She co-owns and operates Monticello Animal Hospital in Shawnee, KS, specializing in small animal and exotic animal medicine. Crista has a wealth of expertise and experience in the field of veterinary telemedicine and is excited to help Vet2Pet clients on their journey. She believes that if you put your best self out into the universe, a ripple effect of positive energy will touch all those around you!