To explore pet owners’ use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) during virtual veterinarian-client-patient consultations and to examine pet owners’ attitudes toward virtual consultations.
714 pet owners.
In an anonymous online survey distributed using snowball sampling, all participants were asked about utilization of ICTs, preferred method of interaction (face-to-face and 5 ICTs), opinion on virtual communication, and demographics. Sentiment toward virtual veterinarian consultations was measured for participants who had experienced a “virtual only” or “combination virtual and face-to-face” consultation in the previous 6 months using the Net Promoter Score. For these participants, multivariable logistic regression was used to explore factors associated with recommending virtual consultations.
92% (583/632) of participants resided in Ontario, Canada. Most (85.6% [611/714]) participants had experience using the telephone for veterinary care, while only 5.2% (37/714) had used live videoconferencing. Participants ranked face-to-face interactions as most preferred (P < .001), followed by telephone and then live videoconferencing. Participants were significantly (P < .001) less confident communicating during virtual consultations, particularly for building rapport. For participants experiencing a virtual consultation in the previous 6 months (n = 348), the overall Net Promoter Score was neutral at –1.43. Participants were divided about recommending virtual consultations, with 33.3% (116/348) being promoters and 34.8% (121/348) being detractors. Age of participant and comfort using videoconferencing were positively associated (P < .05) with recommending virtual consultations.
Although participating pet owners significantly preferred face-to-face consultations with veterinarians, many appear willing to consider virtual consultations. Further exploration of pet owners’ preferences and concerns around virtual care, including communication, is needed.