Day One of the Digital Veterinary Summit raises the importance of a happy workplace

Industry experts came together to discuss advancing digital innovation to deliver actionable insights in the veterinary clinic 

Day one of the third annual Digital Veterinary Summit virtual event saw industry experts discuss the sector’s digital trends and opportunities for growth. The veterinary and animal health industries are experiencing a digital transformation, and this movement has certainly been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How can veterinary practices utilise technology effectively?

The opening session, hosted by Alasdair Cook, professor of veterinary epidemiology and public health at the University of Surrey, discussed how the adoption of digital technology in UK veterinary clinics has improved workflow and productivity: “Engagement with technology – the fourth industrial revolution – is critical for the care of our patients,” explained Alasdair. “Covid has forced us to look at it.”

Amanda Boag, group referral director at IVC Evidensia, explained how technology has allowed veterinary practices to focus on their team: “Digital solutions can empower vets to work in a flexible way. The veterinary workforce has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, and younger professionals have a desire for work-life balance and wellbeing – in fact, it’s not just young professionals, it’s everyone, isn’t it? – and the digital space allows potentially new ways that we can work and will enable us to look after ourselves”.

Nuala Summerfield, director of Virtual Veterinary Specialists, agreed and reiterated that the industry has a “bring problem with burnout … digital innovation empowers vets in the workplace. We had a vet contact us in practice with an emergency – they’re in the Midlands, I’m in Sussex – and immediately we’re breaking down geographical boundaries … and this is really empowering as we’re giving vets the choice to be able to provide that care.”

Peter Renwick, director of Plexi, concluded that, “technology can aid in generating statistics that vets might otherwise miss, as well as missed billing items. It’s about improving patient care”.

The second session of the day saw Peter Dunkley, director of CA business unit and UK corporate accounts at Zoetis UK, provide an overview of how technology and data analytics strengthens engagement between vets and pet owners beyond the examination room. 

“We’ve seen a significant increase in pet ownership over the last 18-24 months,” explained Peter. “E-commerce is by far the fastest-growing route for clients to gain information … the growth is there – the opportunities are there.”

A thought-provoking discussion took place next on the topic of digital technology and how it can support workplace transformation and talent acquisition. It was noted by all speakers how employee retention is a serious issue across the veterinary sector – and that technology should be focused on creating more efficient and happier workplaces for the veterinary team.

“It’s a conversation about what is wrong [with the industry]” stated Apryle Horbal, president of VetNOW Virtual Care. “Vets are overwhelmed right now – they don’t have five minutes for lunch – so it’s important to explain how taking the time to learn new technologies can help them.”

Ivan Zakharenkov, chief executive officer of Veterinary Integration Solutions, suggested that the key to employee retention and talent acquisition is to provide ways of measuring work-life balance; that leaders need to look at the personal life of the team member and balance the work around it.

Victoria Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of VetCT, agreed: “Any technology that makes vets happier and able to do their job well is where we need to be looking.”

When posed with the question as to whether the veterinary industry is too small to adapt to new technological innovations, Victoria quickly disagreed: “There are a lot of us. We are certainly capable of embracing technology.”

Apryle concluded that the industry “needs to try new things. It’s not sustainable to stay on the same path”.

The final talk of the day focused on advancing the digital transformation of the veterinary sector in the USA. A serious conversation on the importance of veterinary team welfare – a recurring theme throughout the day – started the discussion. “What tools can we use to make sure vets get home on time?” asked Bob Lester, chief medical officer at WellHaven Pet Health.

“Time is the most valuable substance on the planet,” said Audrey Wystrach, founder and chief executive officer of One Vet. “You have to give a nod to technology and online scheduling … virtual care is here to stay.”

“There is a great opportunity to embrace technology” stated Bob. “Who is my customer? It’s the millennial vet.”

Audrey concluded the final session by commenting that the focus needs to be on producing and maintaining happy workplaces: “People matter. Technology will be worthless if we don’t have the tools and the people.”

The Digital Veterinary Summit, produced by Kisaco Research, is being held virtually on July 27- 28 2021.