Lessons from lockdown: telemedicine is here to stay

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: Consultations are the successful building blocks of all veterinary clinical organisations since they are the hub from which clinical-client-financial-colleague outcomes emanate. Adapting during the COVID pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity to experience the challenges and opportunities of audio-visual (AV) consulting on our ability to manage the clinical, client, financial and logistical aspects of veterinary case management. Many of the challenges were as anticipated, most notably the widening of the ‘information-gap’ that all clinicians experience when they begin the clinical resolution process by acquiring information using only their physical senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Not only is a lack of information relevant to the process of resolving physical symptoms, it is relevant to the entire emotional experience of any consultation – but AV consultations in particular. The less information people have, the more uncertainty they feel. This increase in uncertainty is relevant to clinicians, clients and colleagues since uncertainty is a key ingredient of anxiety (‘stress’), especially when coupled with time-pressure (as per my ‘Stress’ equation; “Stress = Uncertainty x Urgency”). That said, AV consulting has its benefits and opportunities. Since a significant feature of case-management is simply knowing if our we are ‘on-track’ (i.e. as expected), AV consulting is a useful screening tool to touch-base and set, confirm or adjust expectations in many (but not all) clinical cases. In essence AV consulting highlights what we already know, that an ability to manage expectations about the clinical, client, financial and logistical aspects of a veterinary case – within the limitations of the information we have available – is the foundation upon which successful clinical, client, financial and team morale outcomes are built.

: how have we used it, what have we learned? Video consultation was on the cards pre-COVID. Many practices have used one system or another to help continue to work more safety since the first lockdown in March 2020. Telemedicine apps are now part of the fabric of the practice and are here to stay. This talk discusses the lessons we have learned using telemedicine since we first started in Jan 2020 from a practice perspective. This will be broken down into what we have learned within the veterinary team and from the client’s point of view. A case is also presented for keeping telemedicine in the long-term as one of the communication options of the practice.

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