Over the last decade, countless interactions with clients and patients have convinced me veterinarians must embrace telemedicine, both to remain relevant as care providers in an increasingly digital world and to compete successfully in today’s on-demand economy.
Given the change in generational demographics, today’s clients view their pets as family members and insist on immediate gratification. To survive, we must adapt, otherwise pet parents will rely on Dr. Google, rather than wait to consult their family veterinarian for advice and guidance. It was an incident with a friend and client that convinced me veterinarians, as well as pet owners and patients, can benefit enormously from the integration of telemedicine.
A tale of teletriage
Four years ago, I received an evening call from a family friend whose dog Bodhi, a mixed breed, two-year-old neutered male Labrador, suffered what seemed to be a mild seizure. While my friend was in transit to a nearby emergency animal hospital, I advised him the episode wasn’t as serious as he feared and he could wait until the next morning to bring Bodhi to my practice.
That experience of utilizing the most basic form of telemedicine—the telephone—sparked the idea of bringing the benefits of a more sophisticated telehealth solution to my practice, one that would enable me to provide the same high-level care to all my clients and patients. Since then, we have implemented an integrated teletriage platform that helps clients assess the urgency of care 24-7. The platform’s AI symptom-analysis tool informs the client and notifies me of the pet’s status. Following the algorithmic recommendation, clients can request to interact with me during set telemedicine hours.
In real time, my existing clients can upload text, pictures, and video via instant messaging within the app. This keeps me in the loop, ensuring continuous care and avoiding unnecessary ER visits. Perhaps most importantly, it strengthens my client relationships and drives business back to the brick-and-mortar hospital (Figure 1).
I’ve now featured telemedicine at my practice for almost three years. Operating under the belief telemedicine is part of standard care, we include a line item for telemedicine on the invoice of all patients’ annual exam, just as we have separate line items for data storage, file review for prescription refill, etc. As such, we nominally increased the fee of our annual exam to cover the platform’s cost.
I’ve found telemedicine has streamlined practice workflow, which improves my own work/life balance. Because I can advise clients remotely “in their living room,” I capture a significant portion of cases I otherwise would have been unaware of and would likely result in emergency room visits. The data at my practice suggests only about five percent of teletriage cases are genuine emergencies. Additionally, my team, who I rely on to assist in monitoring triage interactions, are further empowered, happier, and committed to our patients’ care beyond office hours. Further, I’ve seen better patient outcomes, as well as dramatic improvement in my relationship with clients and the financial well-being of my practice.
I share my experience because many veterinarians, especially those with longtime practices, remain suspicious of the internet as a source of reliable information. In fact, some view it as a threat to their business. Additionally, they worry about various issues related to integrating telemedicine into their practices. I, too, was initially wary of telemedicine. Like most veterinarians, I was concerned about further incursions into my personal time—I’ve seen what happens when I give my cell phone number and email address to clients.
However, disregarding client needs is not a viable option. The days in which we turn the signs on our front door to “Closed” and expect our clients to wait until morning for advice and guidance are over. This perception is supported by the findings of the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Studies, which found the internet is the first option for information for 48 percent of pet owners when their animal is sick or injured. It is important to note this accounted for a 23 percent increase between 2010 and 2014, and has likely risen in the years since the study was last published.
The benefits of telemedicine
From talking with colleagues, I’ve learned their chief anxiety is over how to integrate telemedicine into their practice. My experience with my client Matt’s pet, Buddy—a 13-year-old mixed dachshund and longtime patient (with an ornery personality)—illuminates how a telemedicine platform can be integrated into an active veterinary practice.
One morning before our office had opened, but during our telemedicine hours, I received notification of an “urgent” recommendation made by the symptom-analysis algorithm for a chief complaint of coughing.
Chatting with Matt using the telemedicine platform’s online consulting feature, I learned he believed Buddy had contracted kennel cough from boarding a few days earlier, but was otherwise fine. I asked Matt to submit a short video of Buddy’s breathing, and to count his dog’s resting respiratory rate. A few minutes later, I was able to view the short video and learn Buddy had a regular rate and rhythm (RRR) of about 35 per minute. I suspected Buddy was slightly dyspneic.
This interaction confirmed the algorithm’s recommendation of “urgent” and the need to see Buddy that day. But Matt, expecting a very busy workday, wanted to take a wait-and-see approach, especially since Buddy was OK otherwise. He agreed, however, to keep me updated via the app and sent me another video a few hours later. By late morning, the new video showed the dyspnea was getting worse and the dog’s RRR had increased to 40 per minute.
That afternoon, Matt brought Buddy into the office; the physical exam revealed a new I/VI systolic heart murmur. Chest radiographs indicated mild-to-moderate pneumonia was the cause of Buddy’s cough. Later, an echocardiogram determined the murmur to be an incidental finding due to early-stage B1 mitral valve-related heart disease. After two days of hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics, Buddy went home happy and a little less cantankerous.
Using Buddy’s case as an example, here are the key reasons telemedicine has made a significant positive difference in my practice and in my own work/life balance. In addition to benefiting our clients and their pets, a telehealth platform can:
Looking at the evidence of my own practice and considering the experience of other early adopters, I am convinced telemedicine will become the standard of care in the veterinary industry. It is imperative veterinarians provide clients with innovative solutions solidifying our role as primary care providers. In a world in which the largest hospitality brand (Airbnb) owns no hotels and the largest taxi company (Uber) operates through the use of private vehicles, veterinarians must proactively embrace technology and innovation. To stay competitive, they must evolve their traditional business model and become “brick-and-click” veterinarians.
Shlomo Freiman, DVM, a graduate of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and a practicing veterinarian for almost 25 years, operates Animal Hospital of Factoria, Wash. He is cofounder of the telemedicine app, Petriage. Dr. Freiman can be reached via email at [email protected]
BELLEVUE, Wash., April 2, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Petriage, a cloud-based B2B telemedicine service for veterinarians, will showcase its unique app that lets vets deliver remote care to clients and their pets at the Texas A&M Veterinary Innovation Summit, including participating in its Shark Tank-like pitch competition for promising veterinary startups. The third annual conference in College Station, Texas, begins Friday and continues through Sunday.
The event presents the cutting-edge of veterinary medicine, focusing on technological innovations and ideas advancing the future of the profession. A collaboration of the North American Veterinary Community, Veterinary Innovation Council and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the Summit features keynote speakers, panel discussions and breakout sessions. A highlight is the popular startup pitch presentation, at which founders of select emergent veterinary companies give a seven-minute talk about their business and field audience questions.
"We are excited at the opportunity to connect with industry thought leaders and to position Petriage at the forefront of innovation for veterinarians because it is the telemedicine solution designed with vets in mind," said cofounder and CEO Allon Freiman.
"We are especially thrilled to be one of the few companies participating in the startup pitch competition, embodying digital changes that are transforming our profession," noted cofounder Shlomo Freiman DVM, a practicing vet for almost 25 years. Together, they will relate how they developed the digital company's differentiated health-monitoring platform and the ways in which it helps veterinarians build their practices. Petriage will have a booth in the exhibit hall where attendees can see a demonstration of the telemedicine platform and meet Petriage's mascot Sumo, a French bulldog.
Dr. Freiman has been featuring Petriage's sophisticated telehealth solution in his practice for three years and has found that the integrated teletriage platform helps clients assess the urgency of care remotely 24/7, strengthening his client relationships.
"The data at my practice shows only about five percent of teletriage cases are genuine emergencies. Because I can advise clients remotely wherever they are, I'm able to capture a significant portion of cases I otherwise would have been unaware of and would likely result in emergency room visits," Dr. Freiman said.
"I've found telemedicine has streamlined practice workflow, which improves my own work/life balance. Additionally, my team, who I rely on to assist in monitoring triage interactions, are further empowered, happier, and committed to our patients' care beyond office hours," he added.
The Petriage telemedicine platform's symptom analysis tool, developed through artificial intelligence, gives pet owners a real-time recommendation regarding the urgency and need of their pet's symptoms and enables them to seek medical care for their pet from their vet. Following the algorithmic recommendation provided by Petriage, clients can request to interact with a vet during set telemedicine hours and, if necessary, later at the vet's office.
Also, clients can upload text, pictures and video via instant messaging within the app, and this provides useful information to the vet, ensures continuous care and averts unnecessary pet emergency room visits.
In January, Petriage and WellHaven Pet Health, a leading veterinary health management company based in Vancouver, Wash., announced a veterinary telemedicine partnership under which WellHaven will implement Petriage's platform in its 40 current hospitals with plans to expand to 150 hospitals within three years.
Petriage is a cloud-based B2B telemedicine service that allows veterinarians to service their clients and engage them in the remote care of their patients. Its unique offering is a telemedicine service highlighted by a proprietary symptom analysis tool, in which pet owners are provided a recommendation in real-time regarding the need/urgency to seek medical care for their pets. The company was founded in 2015 in Bellevue, Wash., by CEO Allon Freiman, Dr. Shlomo Freiman DVM Cornell, Casey Olives, PhD Harvard. Learn more at petriage.com.
VANCOUVER, Wash. and SEATTLE, Jan. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- WellHaven Pet Health, a leading veterinary health management company committed to happy vets and healthy pets, today announced a new veterinary telemedicine partnership with Petriage. WellHaven will implement Petriage's veterinary telemedicine platform in all 40 of its current hospitals and has plans to expand to 150 hospitals within three years.
Petriage offers a cloud-based B2B telemedicine platform that allows veterinarians to service their clients and engage them in the remote care of their pet patients. The company's unique offering provides pet owners with a real-time recommendation regarding the urgency and need of their pet's symptoms and enables them to seek medical care for their pet from their vet.
Thomas Reuss, Managing Partner, WellHaven Pet Health, said, "The use of telemedicine to augment the practice of veterinary medicine, specifically the use of medical imaging and diagnostic technologies, is a first step toward improving patient care and the wellbeing of our veterinarians. We want to meet our clients where they are, and this partnership with Petriage supports that while helping us 'play from the front' in this space."
"WellHaven's partnership with Petriage is an important step forward in veterinary telemedicine. Our platform's ability to provide pet-owners with vet-validated information while keeping their personal vet informed of their pet's medical needs has proven itself in beta testing, and we look forward to applying it at scale in clinical settings," said Allon Freiman, Petriage CEO.
About WellHaven Pet Health
WellHaven Pet Health founded in July 2017 and based in Vancouver, WA has a simple motto for managing a corporate veterinary practice, "Happy Vets/Healthy Pets."
WellHaven Pet Health helps veterinarians and their teams succeed both personally and professionally. We value our owner veterinarians and encourage them to stay. Our focus on personal growth, practice support and life balance provide the framing of the relationship we want to have with our doctor leaders. For those who wish to exit practice management, we support them with a smooth transition plan focused on both the owner and the hospital team. We provide leader doctors an opportunity to share in the rewards of practice ownership without the risks associated. We are committed as servant leaders to ensure the success of our doctors, our hospital teams, and our profession. wellhavenpethealth.com
Petriage is a cloud-based B2B telemedicine service, which allows veterinarians to service their clients and engage them in the remote care of their patients. The Company's unique offering is a telemedicine service highlighted by a proprietary symptom analysis tool, in which pet owners are provided a recommendation in real-time regarding the need/urgency to seek medical care for their pets. The company was founded in 2015, in Bellevue Washington, by CEO Allon Freiman, Dr. Shlomo Freiman DVM Cornell, Casey Olives, PhD Harvard. Learn more at petriage.com.
Tom Reuss, Managing Partner
WellHaven Pet Health WellHaven Pet Health
Read about the genesis of Petriage in Geekwire.