Ever wonder what it’s like for the veterinarian working on the other end of the video consultation? We sat down with our Head Veterinarian Dr. Patrik Holmboe for a quick interview.
“Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in telemedicine for veterinary medicine?”
I completed my veterinary degree at the University of Melbourne in Australia. From there, I worked for a bit over 5 years in small-animal practices in Australia, Dubai, and the Netherlands.
After those 5 years however, I realized that standard vet work really wasn’t for me. I wanted to combine two of my passions: technology & innovation, and helping people and their animals. What more obvious way to do that than telemedicine!
“Why the Netherlands, and how do you like living here?”
My girlfriend is Dutch, and that’s why we moved here from Dubai! And I love it here! The Netherlands (specifically Amsterdam – where I live) has such a rich culture and abundance of fun things to do. Additionally – I love biking! And Amsterdam makes it so easy to bike without too much stress.
The weather is the only downside occasionally. That cold, windy rain can be a bit of a drag sometimes…
“How do you feel telemedicine benefits pets and their parents?”
There are of course a number of benefits, but primarily telemedicine really lowers the threshold for a pet parent to receive qualified and tailored veterinary advice – for whatever the issue may be.
Previously, a pet parent really only had two options: look up the information online, or bring their pet to the clinic. Online information is easy to get – but of course can be very unreliable if not downright dangerous! Going to the vet clinic is of course the safest option – but comes with the associated costs in terms of time and money, and is often very stressful for the animal.
Telemedicine provides that middle-ground option: allowing pet parents to instantly access qualified veterinary advice without having to leave their home.
“What types of cases are best suited for telemedicine consultations in veterinary medicine?”
Telemedicine is probably most commonly used for what we call “triage” consultations. This is where there is some issue with the pet – but the owner doesn’t know if they need to go to a clinic or not. Brining a pet to the clinic is often not easy, and the ability to give an owner peace of mind on whether or not it is necessary is great!
However, this is certainly not the only use-case. Behavioral issues, weight consultations, and questions about new puppies or kittens are also very common! I am continually surprised by the wide variety of cases which can be helped.
“How does telemedicine change the dynamic between a veterinarian and pet parent?”
Telemedicine usually allows for a more relaxed discussion. From the pet parent’s point of view, they are comfortable in their own home. They haven’t had to take time off work, travel to the clinic, and wait in the waiting room prior to the consultation. And their furry friend is calm too – not stressing out on the exam table.
And things are of course much calmer for the vet as well! There’s no other animals or complicated surgeries coming up which are obviously a distraction. The vet is also in a calm, comfortable environment and can absolutely give their full attention to the problem at hand.
“Can you walk us through a typical video consultation?”
At the appointment time, I join the video call with the click of a button. In the vast majority of cases, the client does this too at the same time. Then – just as in a physical consult – we can introduce ourselves and the client can explain their issue. I then use the best of my ability to give advice on the issue at hand.
Advice may come in various forms, including a referral to a physical veterinarian, the suggestion of utilizing over-the-counter medications, or the implementation of at-home treatments.
“What are the challenges of practicing telemedicine in veterinary medicine and how do you overcome them?”
The biggest challenge of telemedicine is probably the most obvious one: no physical exam of the pet! I overcome this primarily by remembering what my purpose is: to provide veterinary advice to a worried pet parent in their time of need.
Should I feel that I cannot adequately assess the situation virtually, then absolutely that advice is to go to a physical vet clinic for an exam and possible follow-up diagnostics.
“How does telemedicine improve accessibility and affordability of veterinary care?”
Telemedicine eliminates the need for travel (and other time costs such as taking time off work) and reduces costs for a pet parent as the virtual consultation is less than half the cost of a physical consultation. These two facts alone greatly lower the threshold for a worried pet parent to be able to seek advice from a qualified professional.
In addition, it is much easier to staff a telemedicine service during out-of-hours times such as morning, nights, and weekends. This also brings greater access to tailored advice.
“Can telemedicine replace in-person veterinary appointments completely?”
No! While telemedicine is a valuable, additional tool for a pet parent wishing to provide the best possible healthcare for their furry friend, it cannot replace the value of hands-on physical examination and in-person consultations.
Our data show that approximately 25% of virtual consultations require a physical vet visit afterwards. And this is ok! When I speak to a client virtually, I am not trying to replace a physical vet visit – I’m providing advice on the situation at hand, and giving peace-of-mind to a concerned pet parent.
“What advice would you give to pet parents who are considering telemedicine consultations?”
Try it out! The barrier to entry is very low, and there’s no commitment should you decide that it’s not the right option for you and your pet. I’m here to give you another option when you’re deciding what’s the next course of action.
And once you’re booking a consultation, the more information the better! As opposed to a physical vet visit, with a virtual appointment you can write as much as you want about the issue. Take advantage of this and give a thorough description of the problem. The more details available, the higher the quality of advice can be.
“What are the future prospects for telemedicine in veterinary medicine?”
The widespread adoption of telemedicine in veterinary medicine has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for accessible and affordable care. As technology continues to improve, telemedicine will likely become a more integral part of veterinary medicine, offering greater convenience and flexibility for both pet parents and veterinarians. The future of telemedicine in veterinary medicine is certainly promising, and its growth is expected to continue as the benefits of virtual consultations become more widely recognized.
“Thanks Patrik! It’s been a pleasure hearing these answers.”
No problem! Always fun to talk about it!