Arming veterinary teams with the skills and knowledge needed to confidently implement telehealth and connected care is at the heart of a newly published industry resource.
Developed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 2021 AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice is a step-by-step roadmap for effectively and efficiently incorporating telehealth into veterinary practices, the groups say.
The resource, which is a supplement to the recently published AVMA Guidelines for the Use of Telehealth in Veterinary Practice, aims to help veterinarians and practice managers fully utilize the skillsets of team members when incorporating digital services. The guide offers client communication tools, as well as information regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for supporting diagnostic decisions and remote monitoring to provide more real-time information on patients’ wellbeing.
“Our profession has been making much progress in seeing wider adoption of technology, especially during the pandemic, and the new guidelines will help practices successfully integrate telehealth into their daily operations,” says AAHA’s deputy CEO, Janice L. Trumpeter, DVM. “When done right, connected care is an opportunity to more fully engage and utilize the skill sets of veterinary staff members, while increasing attention to customer service and ensuring we continue to deliver high-quality medical care.”
Indeed, a recent survey of companion animal practices reported an increase from 10 percent to 30 percent in the use of telehealth amidst the pandemic, according to AVMA president Douglas Kratt, DVM.
“Telehealth has supported better and more timely communication with our clients during a time when maintaining physical distance has been critical to their health and the health of the staff in our practices,” Dr. Kratt says. “Beyond this immediate need, our experience with telehealth has given us insight into the opportunities remote technologies present for integrating AI into our diagnostic workups and ongoing monitoring of our patients, which ultimately will support more timely intervention when their health is challenged. These guidelines will help small-animal practices adopt telehealth in ways that make sense for their staff, clients, and patients.”
A key focus of the resource is the practical integration of telehealth into practice operations, AAHA says. Additional topics include considerations for device and platform selection, workspace, internal and external marketing strategies, and projections as to how added technology can enhance veterinary care.
“Every patient-centered phone call, email, and text is telehealth—so many veterinary practices don’t realize they are already doing it,” says AAHA’s chief medical officer Heather Loenser, DVM. “These guidelines provide a framework and share some practical steps to use these technologies more efficiently and effectively.”
“There are many services veterinary practices provide on a daily basis that lend themselves well to the use of telehealth, such as post-surgical rechecks, hospice care, client education, after-hours triage, and remote patient monitoring, to name a few,” adds AVMA’s chief veterinary officer Gail Golab, PhD, DVM. “Main goals for the adoption of telehealth include improving care for your patients, increasing access to your expert advice and services, and better and more efficient use of the entire veterinary team’s training and skills.”
AAHA stresses veterinarians must follow both state and federal requirements for establishing and maintaining a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) when using telehealth to deliver veterinary services.
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