These days, business as usual is anything but usual. Virtually overnight, veterinary practices have had to adapt to CDC-recommended sanitation procedures, followed by social distancing and remote working, followed by forced closings in some areas of the country.
But veterinary practices are strong and resilient, and so are the companies that serve them. Within a matter of days, the industry began publishing all kinds of resources to help veterinary practices weather the storm, and many technology providers began offering their products at no cost during the time when COVID-19 peaks.
The truth is, clients are counting on veterinarians to be available for care if needed AND also maintain virtual care as much as possible. Here are three ways that technology can help veterinarians provide high levels of care in the current pandemic environment.
Grocery and convenience stores are offering curbside and home delivery service to keep customers safe and confidence high. Veterinary practices can offer the same kind of service. Staff members can meet clients outside and bring pets inside for treatment, minimizing crowds in the waiting room and extra traffic in the practice. But technology can help bring even more services to the curb rather than the counter.
Cloud software allows you to use a tablet to check patients in from the parking lot; make notes on their condition; take vitals; and access medical records to discuss any needed vaccines, prescriptions, or tests. Any notes taken are automatically captured in the medical record.
Depending on your system, you may also have the capability to take payment when returning patients to clients in the parking lot or when finishing curbside checkups. This helps continue the feeling of business as usual while staying safe and distant at the same time.
Check out the NaVetor mobile app, which very soon will let you perform all tasks from check-in to check-out on an iPhone or iPad, including generating invoices and taking payment. These enhancements are coming soon; stay tuned!
You can still perform curbside care with server software. It just may involve taking manual notes in the parking lot and then entering them into your software later.
Virtual Reception Room
An alternative to curbside check-in or curbside care is a virtual reception room. Companion tools to practice management software such as Client HQ from Patterson Veterinary can access the appointment calendar and alert clients via text or email.
Under normal circumstances, these tools help fill the appointment calendar by contacting overdue patients when appointments open up. They can also maximize services during scheduled appointments by alerting patients when other services are overdue or when other pets within the household are due to be seen.
In light of COVID-19, however, these tools can create a virtual reception room. Clients can wait safely with their pets in their cars in the parking lot and receive a text message when exam rooms are available, reducing the need for pet owners to sit in the reception area.
Patterson Veterinary is offering a three-month complimentary subscription to both NaVetor cloud software and Client HQ to help practices through this pandemic. Contact your Patterson rep for details or call 877-422-8838.
Perhaps you practice in a higher-risk area and your clients don’t want to venture out. That’s where telemedicine can help you provide virtual care. Telemedicine is already widely used in human medicine, so it was only a matter of time before the veterinary industry adopted the technology. COVID-19 has pushed the timeline up.
Whether you are new to telemedicine or have offered it before, there are a few key guidelines to follow during this global pandemic:
- Make sure you are in compliance with your state board. Regulations differ from state to state regarding whether prescriptions can be written during telemedicine appointments and whether telemedicine is allowed for a first-time appointment. In late March, the FDA ruled that it would suspend these regulations to encourage veterinary care during this time of social distancing, but it pays to make sure you are up-to-speed on the specifics for your state.
- Make sure you are updating the medical record appropriately in your software. A telemedicine visit is still an appointment, so state regulations for medical-record-keeping and general industry best practices still apply. Plus, you’ll want to take advantage of all of your software’s invoicing, inventory, and reminder capabilities … which work best when the medical record is up to date.
- Make sure you are charging appropriately. Many practices charge a modest amount for a telemedicine visit reflecting the value of the visit. While you are providing a valuable and convenient service for clients at a time when in-person visits are difficult, there are limitations to what you can see and observe. So price accordingly.
- Know when an in-office visit is required for a full diagnosis, and encourage the client to bring pets in for those appointments. Curbside care or a virtual reception can help the client with social distancing.
There are a host of telemedicine providers serving the veterinary industry, so it may take some time to thoroughly evaluate the options and select the best one for your practice. In the meantime, if you need to offer telemedicine options to clients NOW, consider a standard conference service.
Here are other helpful resources on telemedicine:
- COVID-19 and Telemedicine from Clinician’s Brief.
- FDA Loosens Telemedicine Guidelines, from Veterinary Practice News.
- Veterinary Telemedicine: The Basics, from the AVMA.