I have spent the last few months having lots of chats with vets, nurses and business leaders about their approach to telehealth. I have taken some of my musings and put them into this blog post.
I love the film Cool Runnings! I must have watched it hundreds of times as a kid. There has always been one line that has stuck out for me: ‘People are always afraid of what’s different’.
For me, this can ring true of the current circumstances for many of us as we adopt whatever it is that is this ‘new normal’.
A New Vertical
Telehealth is not a new concept, it has permeated multiple avenues of human healthcare in recent times with varying levels of success and multiple hiccups as well as successes, but all with a very clear objective: to make the process of providing and receiving healthcare smoother, more cost-efficient and accessible.
So, it makes sense for companies to look to things that have helped the digital evolution and success of other healthcare professions and apply them to a new vertical. Namely, veterinary medicine. With the rollercoaster journey of companies like Babylon GP at Hand, GP One and the now countless others offering this service to people all over the UK and beyond, it is wise to look to them and their experiences for guidance and their users for insight into the products that we utilize – what has worked? What hasn’t worked? What helped? What hindered?
However, as you are all well aware, the fundamental difference between human medicine and veterinary medicine is that need for a physical examination on some level of an animal as they can’t tell us what is going on. There is only so much we can do with telehealth consults – but is that ‘so much’ able to benefit our clients, our profession and, most importantly, our patients?
Coronavirus and the COVID-19 outbreak have created a ‘global disaster state’ where many businesses have had to adopt a lean startup mentality: what can we do quickly and cheaply to stay alive.
Vets Get Lean
Lean startup businesses work on a simple mentality: find a problem, have an idea to fix the problem, evidence that idea, then test that evidence in the form of a solution and pivot or change the bits that don’t work. They function on the premise that nothing is perfect to begin with, but we launch it and adapt it based on user insight. This is almost contrary to our viewpoint that many of us as clinicians suffer from perfectionism. The irony here is that our modern-day perfectionism to our current standards is based on the fact that at some point in the past someone has dared to challenge the status quo of how we did things at that point in time and tried things differently with the aim of improving outcomes. With this in mind, I don’t think that we as a profession are averse to adopting new things. However, I do think that we hold their success up to high standards.
Our problem appears simple at first: reduced footfall means reduced turnover, practices in very real trouble financially with revenues dropping up to 75%, we can increase our digital footfall in order to maintain some cash flow. No brainer, we can see LOADS of digital consults every day… or can we?
We have had to adopt a lean workforce owing to the lockdown, with only limited staff members in the physical practice but this opens our eyes to how our client flow works. Can we manage them digitally using part of the team working from home to streamline the flow of cases into the practices?
Perfection doesn’t just happen
Yes, there have been challenges to uptake, having to educate ourselves and our clients, stressful moments and hard times.
The biggest hurdle at the moment is that a lack of any system with decent PMS integrations means that we are either creating two customer journeys, or worse, we are filling someone else’s database with all of our client’s data. And we all know that data is king. Even if we don’t really know what that actually means (if something is free to you, it means that the data or insights someone else is harvesting on the other end are probably worth a fortune to them).
Consults have taken triple the time that we would normally take in person, owners can’t actually get the animal to stay still long enough to show you the problem, Wi-Fi speeds aren’t fast enough, not everyone has the appropriate browsers or smart tech.
The list of possible challenges is endless, but in that list of problems lies a list of solutions and those solutions will not be improved by our good experiences but by the challenges that we face and present to those companies offering telehealth products.
By engaging with them and providing insight from our own experiences we will improve what is on offer.
Telehealth is not the alternative solution to challenge existing veterinary life, but simply a new element and part of the journey for us all to achieve our aims of customer support, attraction and retention but built on the bedrock of providing excellent animal health and welfare.
It isn’t perfect now, it may never be, but as our client base becomes more digitally dependent and tech-savvy, it will inevitably form an intrinsic part of their veterinary journey: the more we help them to utilise it, the more we help ourselves perhaps?
Much like the journey of the Jamaican bobsled team into and through the Winter Olympics, our initiation into the world of telehealth has been bumpy, with fallouts, crashes and failures. Neither us or our clients have had all of the necessary tools, the time to train or familiarise ourselves with the multiple pieces that comprise the customer journey and our own professional journey to maximise the experience.
Despite the various bumps in the road, it is my view that the process will become more efficient, more user friendly and more wholesome based on user insights and evolution of the products and integrations into practice management systems to make everybody’s lives easier.
The Webinar Vet have spent the last 9 months working closely with Smart.Vet on their end to end fully integrated solution, we really like it and think you will too. Why not have a look and have a demo to show you how it compares to what you are currently using?
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