As veterinary practices must divide patient visits into essential and nonessential categories, telehealth becomes a crucial avenue for care. Many veterinary teams are expanding their use of telehealth to incorporate telemedicine for the first time.
In this article, get a high-level overview of telehealth and what it means for veterinary marketers. In addition, you’ll find practical opportunities to grow your brand during the COVID-19 outbreak—and beyond.
Veterinary Telehealth 101
What Is Telehealth?
According to the AVMA, telehealth is “the overarching term that encompasses all uses of technology geared to remotely deliver health information or education.”1 There are many subcategories of telehealth, depending on who is involved in the communication.
Here’s are a few key categories, as defined by the AVMA2:
- Telemedicine refers to the use of a technology platform that extends the practice of veterinary medicine virtually. It can only be conducted within a veterinarian–client–patient relationship (VCPR).
- Teleconsults are one-on-one consultations between a general veterinarian and a veterinary specialist, intended to exchange information about medical care. The tools used to facilitate these consults are telehealth tools.
- Teleadvice and teletriage refer to the provision of general medical advice and assessment and management of patients, respectively. These subcategories involve electronic communication between the veterinarian and a nonclient, with whom there is no existing VCPR.
For more information about the various subcategories of telehealth, visit the AVMA’s telehealth resource center.
VCPR stands for veterinarian-client-patient relationship. This concept provides boundaries for interaction between all key stakeholders in relation to patient care.
Any veterinarian can provide general advice in a telehealth scenario. However, to answer questions about diagnosis, treatment, or prescription, a veterinarian must have (or be able to establish) a VCPR.
Establishing a VCPR is the key difference between telehealth (general advice) and telemedicine (specific guidance related to a pet).3
Key Resources on VCPR
Telemedicine Regulations & Guidelines
Telemedicine is a relatively new service in veterinary medicine and regulations are evolving. Veterinarians consult their state boards and state VMAs for laws and regulations, and guidance interpreting those regulations.
Although regulations vary by state, the AVMA has issued their own telemedicine guidelines.
Common Applications for Telemedicine
- Acute conditions of a visual nature, (ie, skin issues)
- Behavioral issues
- Postsurgical consultations
- Hospice care
- After-hours care
- General wellness advice
- Veterinary expertise for clients with limited access to care
Using Telemedicine for Your Brand
Many brands are leveraging telemedicine strategies to keep their products relevant during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are a few ideas to consider for your brand.
Is your product or service essential? Is it in alignment with the AVMA’s COVID-19 guidelines? If so, make sure your customers know.
Provide guidance on the use of telemedicine to schedule a treatment that includes your product or service now.
Highlight the key patient and practice benefits that are unique to the current pandemic (eg, less invasive, fewer follow-up visits required, easier home care for the pet owner, no PPE required).
Decision trees are a valuable resource for veterinarians during this time. If you are comfortable providing tactical recommendations in the form of an algorithm, do so—they are proving highly valuable to the market.
Although veterinary practices are considered essential businesses, the AVMA has defined what procedures should be delayed until a later date in an effort to control the use of PPE.
Many services will fall into the “elective procedures” category. Veterinary teams will need to delay these procedures outbreak-related restrictions ease.
Veterinarians can use telemedicine to educate clients about your product or service and schedule elective treatments for a future date.
This is important. Even when shelter-in-place orders are eased, many people will not immediately return to normal pre-COVID-19 habits. Scheduling future appointments will help restore foot traffic to veterinary businesses when guidelines allow.
Veterinarian-Facilitated Online Sales
Can veterinarians sell your product online? If so, show them how to provide education that leads to product sales through telemedicine.
For example, many telemedicine platforms allow veterinarians to share pictures and links. Provide images and assets designed specifically to support telemedicine.
If you don’t already have one, consider launching affiliate programs for veterinarians to allow them to earn a percentage of online sales.
If your product requires an e-prescription, make sure you’re compliant with both federal and state regulations.
Strategic Partnerships with Telemedicine Tools
A strategic collaboration with a telemedicine platform may provide both short- and long-term value for your brand.
You may choose to offer free access to a telemedicine tool as a value-add for strategic customers, or as a tool to facilitate selling your product, if applicable.
If you plan to leverage telemedicine for sales initiatives, be careful of how you craft your message. Try these practical tips on adapting your tone during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Education on Use
Veterinarians are looking for tactical guidance on how to use and implement telemedicine in their clinics.
Engage a key opinion leader to educate your customers and prospects about how to use telemedicine and tactically how to use it for your product or service.
This type of practical guidance will earn your brand positive equity and will position you as an innovative thought leader.
Below is a list of telemedicine platforms. This list is not comprehensive of all telehealth tools. The following tools allow for telemedicine as a first-line triage tool during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For more information about these platforms, please visit the AVMA’s connected care provider list.
- GoFetch Health
- VetCareShare Telemedicine Solutions
Telemedicine is changing the conversation about healthcare on a global level. The Brief Media team is here to consult with your business during this time of incredible change. Our team of in-house DVM’s can provide strategic suggestions for your brand.