While telemedicine has been a part of the veterinary health scene for more than a decade, in 2020 veterinary telehealth has seen an upward trend as providers are transitioning toward providing care for their clients through more COVID-safe practices.
According to Forbes, with the FDA lifting requirements on in-person veterinary exams, the telehealth veterinary medicine industry has hit a boom that is not expected to end anytime soon. Daily downloads of virtual vet apps increased by 40% in March 2020, while virtual vet visits on these platforms have seen business increase as much as 170% since the pandemic began.
American Veterinary Medical Association breaks down the differences for the services offered under the overarching umbrella term of telehealth. The rules vary for each as to what is allowed under the established Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) and whether it is categorized as telemedicine, telehealth, tele-advice, or tele-triage. Always confirm your understanding and compliance with these terms.
As you plan for the future, you may incorporate telemedicine in your veterinary practice. Let’s examine a few of the key elements to consider.
Staffing is one concern that comes to mind. How will this impact what your team may look like in the future and will your staffing needs change? Might your practice add additional headcount exclusively as telemedicine providers or will you consider shifting a portion of your employees from in-person care to virtual care providers? Will you choose to hire people who are licensed across state lines to allow your practice to broaden its geographical reach of services? One consideration that Today’s Veterinary Business suggests is developing a collaborative relationship with a relief veterinarian who is also able to provide telemedicine services and leverage existing relationships within your practice. If you are considering including telemedicine in your practice, you can look at your current people and think about how they might adapt to these new service offerings. Consult with your legal counsel to confirm compliance with applicable laws and guidelines.
Today’s Veterinary Practice offers several tips on pricing your telemedicine services including:
Pricing some services, such as a video or telephone consultation, at a discounted rate compared to your in-clinic exam fee.
Consider crediting the cost of the initial telemedicine exam to the price of the in-person exam should you determine that an in-person exam is necessary.
Be competitive with your pricing. Check to see what other practices are charging for these services.
Your financial advisor can help you determine what makes sense for you – and discuss how to remain profitable while providing value in relation to the competition.
As you look at offering telemedicine, think about how this will affect your retail sales. Is your website setup for e-commerce to sell pet products, etc.? If not, it’s time. Clients choose telemedicine for their pets because of safety and convenience, and these same clients are more likely to purchase their pet’s products online. According to a 2019 study by the American Animal Health Association, 64% of pet owners are more apt to purchase products recommended by their vets – so make it easy for them. By making shopping available on your site, you can continue to recommend products and simplify the purchase. This can help give your clients peace of mind knowing they can trust the source of their pet’s products.
The coronavirus may have been the catalyst for offering veterinary telemedicine, but now that pet owners have experienced its benefits and convenience, this is a trend that may be here to stay. Consider these ideas, discuss with your trusted advisors and determine the best ways for you to incorporate this trend in your practice.