Is Telemedicine Worth The Effort Post Covid-19 Lockdown?

At the beginning of 2020 for many clients the terms telehealth, virtual care or telemedicine were foreign to them.

However, with social and physical distancing becoming a reality and human healthcare pushing virtual care services, the concept of telemedicine has gained greater consumer and provider appeal providing huge benefits for the veterinary sector.

With barriers to telemedicine rapidly disappearing and with lockdown lifting, many vets will be considering whether telehealth is something they want to incorporate into their long-term business marketing strategy.

Remember: Clients Accept Change

Many of our clients accept telemedicine and are willing to try it. In American Well’s Telehealth Index: 2019 Consumer Survey 66% of people were willing to have a telehealth consult with the majority (74%) being aged 18-34. In the over 65s, 52% were more than happy to use receive virtual care.

The 2019 Animal Medicines Australia study on pet ownership in Australia advises that dog owners average 2.1 visits per dog and while cat owners average 1.7 visits per cat. These numbers rarely change year upon year.

With many pet owners seeking preventative advice elsewhere (advice from vets’ hovers around 50%), there is a huge opportunity for vets to capture the advice market with a move to the utilisation of convenient telemedicine.

Remember millennials? They love convenience and demand immediacy. Telehealth for them is a very important option when deciding on who will provide care for their animals.

Benefits of Telemedicine for Your Practice 

Here’s what you need to know about the advantages of telemedicine for your practice

  1. Improved access to care
  2. Exceptional convenience
  3. More efficient use of time, operational efficiency
  4. Reduced costs
  5. High-quality communications
  6. Greater client satisfaction
  7. Enhanced relationships with clients
  8. Improved client retention
  9. Increased revenues

Telemedicine Marketing Strategies to Consider

Like many things in business, it’s all very good to say you offer a service, but to really ensure you get clients onboard your marketing needs to be effective.

One of the key things to remember when marketing telemedicine is to consider how you will position it.

Consider the key positioning statements that you will consistently repeat i.e. Convenience, Availability and Care.

Remind people of their own experience with digital health care and tell the story of why you have introduced telemedicine into your practice. If you have some great client stories to tell – share those.

It’s important to realise that the experience a person receives during their telemedicine consult is just as important as the medical outcome.

Resist the urge to automatically ‘sell’ an in-person visit. This will only set you up for failure as clients will only view your service as an attempt at double dipping.

Again, it’s important to set your service up for success. As mentioned in our article The Nuts and Bolts of Running a Telemedicine Consult it’s wise to communicate clear expectations so that clients are satisfied, this may include mention of limitations as well as reminding people that pre-consult questions must be completed.

With this in mind here are some ideas to help start you on your marketing journey:

  • Email all your clients to inform them of your new service. Provide a direct link so that they can book a consult from the email. (Remember people save emails).
  • Add telemedicine to your website services area – with the link to book a consult.
  • Add your practice to veterinary marketplaces such as Your Vet Online Marketplace
  • Announce the availability of your telemedicine offering on social media such as Facebook/Instagram. Utilise regular posts, video examples to share your story and the stories of your clients that have used the service.

What Services Are Easily Met by A Telemedicine Offering?

Telemedicine has always been available; we are merely entering a phase where it’s not just the telephone.

In case, telemedicine is new to you, our article The Rise of Telehealth in Veterinary Medicine goes into further detail about setting up a telemedicine service. 

Beyond that, here are some ways you can utilise the technology and begin to generate income where traditionally this work may have been performed for free:

  • Basic surgical rechecks
  • Nurse consults – diet questions, puppy questions, basic behaviour and training
  • Behaviour consults
  • Nutrition consults
  • After hours – triage cases
  • Chronic condition care/check-ups
  • Assessment for scripts – particularly long-term medications and itchy skin problems

Telemedicine is here to stay. It represents a huge opportunity to bond clients to your practice regardless of social distancing rules and regulations. My advice is to ignore at your peril.  

Dr Leigh Davidson BVSc, BApplSc

Dr Leigh Davidson is the founder of Your Vet Online, a 24 hour online platform connecting animal owners with vets. Dr Leigh is a veterinarian with 20 years experience in small animal, equine and farm medicine, pharmaceutical consultancy and business ownership and loves nothing more than helping people learn more about their pets so they can give them the healthiest and happiest life possible.

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