It’s a paradox consistent with the times in which we live: pet owners have been trained to depend upon veterinary professionals for the consistent care of their pets, and veterinary professionals have dedicated multiple years and many dollars to train to deliver that care. Yet now, during a crisis the likes of which most adults have never seen, veterinarians across the US are being restricted from offering hands-on comprehensive care.
Where do pet owners turn for care now?
Given current circumstances, where do we, the dedicated pet owners, turn for non-emergency medical consultation and care? What do we do when vaccines are due, our dog is limping, or our cat refuses to eat?
Veterinary healthcare delivered via technology (phone, text, video) is the answer. It’s not a novel concept – client-centric veterinary practices have been offering telecare for years – but in the face of COVID-19 it’s finally getting the consideration it deserves.
Most states have relaxed their VCPR (veterinary-client-patient-relationship) guidelines to encourage the continued availability of routine veterinary care during the pandemic. Others – most recently and most notably California – appear to be tightening them. That doesn’t make sense.
Telehealth care makes sense
What does make sense is this:
- Engaged pet owners’ desire for expert medical advice has not decreased – in fact, shelter-clearing fostering, new pet adoptions, and the desire to continue to provide optimum care for previously owned pets are creating increasing demand.
- The need for informed pet healthcare remains even when veterinary practices are closed to all but emergency and critical care.
- Veterinary professionals, understanding the value of preventive and compassionate care, are eager to be able to provide that care. And the inability to do so is adding unnecessary emotional stress to an already stressed profession.
So what do we do?
Pet owners: let your trusted veterinary professional know you are committed to supporting their business in good times and bad. Ask for – and be willing to pay for - the opportunity to schedule a telehealth visit. If your veterinarian does not or will not offer a telehealth service, find one that does. Look for and join virtual conversations led by groups that feature expert advice, such as The Bridge Club Pets.
Veterinary professionals, investigate and choose one of the many available options that enable you to very quickly add telehealth care for your clients. If your practice is in a state that makes the delivery of telehealth care difficult or impossible, make your opinion known.
The bottom line: human and veterinary telehealth care is a need-based medical deliverable, a “new normal” that benefits people, pets, and professionals now and for the longer term. There’s no rational reason to not embrace it.