29 December 2016

BUSINESS - Keeping up With Veterinary Technology

Today’s vets are faced with the potentially overwhelming, triple-threat task when it comes to technology and client care.

The first task is the fundamental requirement of keeping up to date on rapidly changing technology.

In a four-part series on practice building back in 2012, Today’s Veterinary Practice described “the dizzying changes in digital communication and practice information management systems (PIMS)” and the pace of change has only increased since that series of articles was published.

The Internet of Things for pets, which is driving many of the changes in veterinary technology by increasing connectivity and the ability of clients to access services remotely and collect data from smart devices such as collars, litter boxes, or food bowls, is growing exponentially.

The second task of the contemporary vet is to adapt and incorporate these new technologies into their practice in ways that are both fast enough to satisfy the modern consumer, and sustainable for the practice.

That is a tricky balancing act, since the cost of investing in new technology while technology is changing so rapidly can be daunting.  

But it’s the final task that is the most challenging and the most critical for the long-term success of contemporary veterinary practices.

Today’s vets must learn how to maintain trusting personal relationships with their clients while also introducing technology that replaces the established face-to-face relationship with one that is mediated by connected devices and distance.

The importance of that trust-based relationship cannot be overstated.

Although consumers are willing to engage with disembodied online businesses for products like custom pet food, when it comes to healthcare for both people and pets, that personal and trusting relationship remains a critical component.

Building trust through credibility, reliability, and clinical validation are all important parts of digital healthcare start-up success, and are all made more challenging by some technologies.

Adam Little is the Director of Veterinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, and he sees trust-building as a necessary step between both the digital start-ups that provide technology to veterinarians, and between vets and their clients when implementing the new technology.

He also sees potential for vets to learn from cutting edge companies, like Uber, about how to incorporate, market, and sustain new technology in the practice.

New technology has a lot to offer veterinarians, both in terms of streamlining the client experience and also in allowing easier and more reliable data collection from the client’s home.

The technology is changing quickly, and this has the potential to be a great thing for contemporary vets.

Video-conferencing with specialists, offering remote appointments, and creating apps and web interfaces to increase communication and client compliance are all possible in the brave new world of veterinary technology.

But in order to make it into that new world, vets need to have access to good information and an investment of time and money in order to innovate and stay relevant.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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