Whether you love or hate technology may not matter at this point in history. Recent events are forcing veterinarians to jump off the telemedicine cliff as practices are faced with new challenges limiting in-person exams. And with the increasing pressure of social distancing balanced with the oath to help animals, veterinarians are now asking themselves “which telemedicine platform is right for my practice?”
When it comes to telemedicine platforms, there are three big buckets: Basic DIY, Plug & Play, and Premium. Let’s break them down.
1: Basic DIY telemedicine solutions
This DIY bucket requires rounding up the components needed to deliver a telemedicine experience and putting them all together, much like baking a cake. You’ve got to gather the ingredients: an online booking platform (Youcanbookme, Calendly), a calendar to view the bookings (Google calendar, Microsoft calendar), a payment service (Stripe, Paypal), a video hosting software (Zoom, Skype), a chat software (Google Voice, Whatsapp), then you put them all together to build out a great experience for your clients like this.
- Most of these platforms are free or nearly free. The average cost here will be about $10/m plus merchant fees.
- You can set it up yourself. There are lots of YouTube videos out there on this stuff
- The components are readily available, and you can be up and running in a few hours
- There is quite a bit of technology knowledge needed to get these platforms to connect and talk to one another
- Must jump to different platforms to host
A new-to-me DIY – Plug & Play hybrid platform that I just discovered last night after hearing about it from one of our innovative customers (Cypress View Veterinary Clinic in Canada) is Doxy.me. This HIPPA compliant platform is designed for human medical professionals but has many things you need in a telemedicine platform. It gives you the ability to charge your client as well as video and chat capabilities and a meeting room link. The link can easily be emailed or texted to your clients and embedded in your website and practice client app. The platform takes a different approach and instead of booking appointments through the platform, clients are held in a “virtual waiting room” until it’s time for their appointment, then the doctor “starts the meeting”. The cost ranges from a free version to $5o/month for multiple providers. Definitely worth checking out how this can work in veterinary practices HERE.
2: Plug & play telemedicine solutions built for veterinarians
Luckily for us, many software companies forecasted long ago that telemedicine was coming and have been working for several years to perfect their technology. There is no shortage of telemedicine services available for veterinarians on the market today. Some of our favorites include Televet, Petriage, GuardianVets, and many more. These professional platforms will do the heavy lifting on the technology side for those of you that just “want it to work”!
- Limited knowledge of technology needed
- Full support and training
- All-in-one dashboard to host your telemedicine events from booking to soaping, with many loading notes into patient records in the practice management software
- More expensive
- Additional technology added on top of what you already have
- Requires demoing and researching to find a company that meets your needs
3: Premium telemedicine solutions
Undoubtedly many of you will want your telemedicine appointments to book directly into your practice management software calendar. As nice and simple as that may seem, it has proven to be quite challenging with legacy practice software solutions dominating the market. Some companies, like Anipanion, can load appointments into the practice software calendar (with limitations). Only recently—this week in fact—one company announced the ability to read available appointment slots in real-time and allow direct appointment booking by the client for video consultations (with limitations): Vetstoria. The integration only exists for Cornerstone, AVImark and Vetter. The rest of us will have to wait. The first version is rolling out this week and new additions such as payment integration will be coming soon.
- Telemedicine appointments displayed in your practice software calendar
- Client can book appointment more efficiently
- Decreased workload on reception team
- More expensive
- Requires involvement by the practice to set up the experience
It seems the time is now to get telemedicine up and running in your practice, whether you had this on your radar or not. As someone who can personally splint a leg with a tongue depressor, white tape and gauze, I venture that if there is anyone up for the job in front of us, it is the veterinarian. It might be new, it might be a bit scary, but I have no doubt that we will overcome these challenges and perhaps unlock a benefit we’ve been dreaming of for years—the ability to charge for our time. Good luck friends!
Success tip: Don’t overthink this. It’s a bit like choosing carpet—there are so many options available you can easily develop “analysis paralysis”, so pick one and go for it! The good news is you’ll learn something and if you end up wanting to change later, it’s just software.