Using Veterinary Telemedicine (VTM) in the time of Covid-19
Blog by Professor Jacky Reid BVMS PhD DVA DipECVAA MRCA MRCVS, MD of NewMetrica
Veterinary professionals all over the world have continued working throughout global lockdowns to provide essential care for companion animals. While adhering to strict social distancing requirements, they have successfully adopted teletriage and telemedicine practices to allow them to work effectively and remotely.
Going forward, I am confident that the use of technology in treating companion animals will increasingly become the “new normal”. Reducing client contact and using technology wherever possible to triage clients is fast, efficient and is developing in tandem with similar practices in human medicine.
As countries begin to ease out of lockdown, the use of telemedicine will also contribute to limiting the chances of a second wave of COVID-19, by allowing veterinary patients to be remotely assessed and monitored. As good things come of bad, the current situation has already accelerated the pressure to develop new and better solutions.
For some, especially cat owners, a trip to the vet can be extremely stressful for both animal and owner. Historically those living in rural communities may also have found trips to the vet challenging, but the use of telemedicine can alleviate these pressures. Through increasingly smart technology, vets can support owners in the comfort and safety of their own home.
Increasing understanding of telemedicine
A recent study, which examined the use of veterinary services in the United States, indicated that the availability of telemedicine was not ranked highly by dog and cat owners as a factor in selecting veterinary care. This was however concluded pre-COVID-19. (Bir et al, 2020).
Since then, veterinary practices have had no choice but to optimize procedures for telemedicine. The pandemic has necessitated finding new solutions in the care of companion animals, whose role has never been more important to owners in self-isolation.
Several online, on-demand consultants report significant increases in companion animal owners using video-on-demand veterinary services. There has also been an uptake in app users, respectively, between February and March, due to social distancing guidelines and lockdowns across the UK (Walters, 2020).
How NewMetrica products can help
NewMetrica’s online, health-related quality of life (HRQL) measurement tool (VetMetrica) provides a useful addition to the suite of tools a practice can use to monitor animal patients.
VetMetrica has been developed, using best practice in human healthcare measurement, to assess the HRQL of both cats and dogs. In human healthcare, HRQL measures are used to determine how the patient feels about his/her treatment and is considered very important. VetMetrica HRQL products are specifically designed to measure how an animal “feels” about its circumstances from its individual perspective and provides both the owner and the vet with a measure of health & wellbeing, specifically targeting the impact of any chronic disease including chronic pain.
The tool features a short, owner-based questionnaire designed and validated for completion in the pet’s home environment. An owner can regularly complete the questionnaire in less than 5minutes, helping to improve a virtual consultation by providing longitudinal measurements since the previous “visit” with the patient.
The questionnaire is designed such that owners can not leave blank questions, and they receive reminders to answer their questionnaires at intervals set by the clinician, which has been shown to greatly improve uptake & compliance.
Andy Armitage of Greenside Veterinary Practice in UK, who specialises in regenerative medicine, said that using VetMetrica over a period of 18 months, “Revolutionised how I monitor patients and collect data to assess treatment responses, specifically when monitoring patient responses to new procedures, treatments and optimising protocols.
“VetMetrica’s real time monitoring allows for early identification of problems, leading to quicker intervention. The results can be also used to monitor responses to treatment and help guide owners’ decisions ”. You can read the full testimony from Andy HERE.
Supporting continuance of clinical trials
In addition to its use in veterinary practice, NewMetrica’s HRQL tools offer similar gains in a research environment, as CROs and pharmaceutical companies aim to continue trials in the face of the pandemic.
A recent report (McDermott et al., 2020) emphasised the importance to human clinical trials of outcomes that can be collected remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that their use should be continued in future clinical trials and that those previously collected in person, such as questionnaires, should be converted to remote administration.
VetMetrica is already commonly used as a remote outcome measure in veterinary clinical trials, where the results have been promising. You can learn more about his HERE.
These are all concepts brought into sharp focus by the onset of the current pandemic. If you wish to discuss how validated NewMetrica products can assist your practice or clinical trial, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Teletriage: Patient triage by phone or use of technology prior to diagnosis or treatment
Veterinary Telemedicine (VTM): veterinary telemedicine is the use of technology such as phone, email, or video conferencing to provide veterinary care including diagnosis and treatment without being physically present with the animal or owner.
Bir, C., Ortez, M., Olynk Widmar, N. J., Wolf, C. A., Hansen, C., & Ouedraogo, F. B. (2020). Familiarity and Use of Veterinary Services by US Resident Dog and Cat Owners. Animals, 10(3), 483.
BSAVA & RCVS Joint statements, 2020
McDermott MM, Newman AB. Preserving Clinical Trial Integrity During the Coronavirus Pandemic. JAMA. 2020;323(21):2135–2136.