Day Two of the Digital Veterinary Summit focuses on effective collaboration

Industry experts continued discussions on telemedicine, collaborative approaches and digital solutions for veterinary practice.

The second and final day of the Digital Veterinary Summit, hosted by Kisaco Research, kicked-off with an innovation showcase where six start-up companies presented their technologies for financial investment or strategic corporate partnerships. An audience poll was held for the best presentation, with Astuvet being declared the winner. Astuvet describe their business as a unique digital platform for veterinarians in their daily practice; where everything – such as products, consultation tools and educational resources – can be found in one place.

Up next saw an expert panel discuss telemedicine – a topic that has been particularly prominent during the COVD-19 pandemic with many practices adopting the technology over the past 18 months.

“It’s all about accessibility … and if you look towards the NHS and the way they’re working towards being ‘net zero’, one of the big drivers for them is [reducing] travel, and as a profession, we should be looking to do the same. So, anything that we can do to reduce footfall while still providing high levels of animal welfare is hugely important. Telehealth can fill that gap and it’s one of the really positive things to have come out of the pandemic,” stated Susan Paterson, director of Virtual Vet Derms.

Mark Boddy, chief executive officer of Pawsquad, agreed: “Our aim is to make professional veterinary advice as accessible as possible, 24/7. Our primary competitor is Google.”

On the issue of using telemedicine to retain talent in the profession, Adele Williams, head of equine and data, research and AI executive manager at Vet-AI, commented that, while most of her team also work in practice, in recent months, she has seen “a trend of people giving up practice work and wanting to work with us full-time”.

“Telemedicine allows working parents to keep their hand in the profession – which hasn’t always been the case,” added Susan Paterson.

When asked whether the upsurge in the adoption of telemedicine would end post-lockdown, Mark Boddy disagreed: “Telemedicine is part of the veterinary ecosystem. Practices can’t cope with demand and it can take the pressure off.”

“There is a place for telemedicine within veterinary medicine,” added Adele. “It’s not complete. The majority of our cases are things that wouldn’t go into practice. Our caseload is different.”

“Telemedicine is here to help primary-care vets. It’s enhancing care – not taking away,” concluded Susan.

The third session saw a panel discuss collaborative approaches to advancing digital standards in veterinary practice.

“The profession is evolving at a fast pace. How can we create something that really facilitates that?” asked Sébastien Lafon, founder of Adapt1st.

“The more we can break down barriers, the better the outcome will be,” added Oliver Viner, chief operating officer of Vet Help Direct. “We’ve seen more changes in the last 18 months than we have in the last five years … there is no such thing as too much collaboration.”

“A rising tide lifts all ships,” concluded Nick Lloyd, director of Vet XML. “If we work together, all lives are made easier,”

Sebastian Gabor, founder of Digitail, commented that, “veterinary practices started with pen and paper – technology is just another layer.”

The final session of the day discussed advancing the use of innovative, digital solutions for veterinary practice. Hosted by Simon Doherty, senior lecturer in animal health and welfare at Queen’s University Belfast, the topic again referred to how technology can help vets – rather than presenting more problems.

“We want to encourage use [of technology], but different platforms have to be able to communicate with each other,” began Chris Tufnell, RCVS Innovation Lead. “We constantly need to remind ourselves that we’re here to create greater outcomes for animals … the trickle-down of benefit is really important.”

“Our three mantras are: to drive animal health, to drive client loyalty, and to ultimately improve practice workflow,” added Charlie Barton, co-founder of Virtual Recall.

“Vets are natural innovators – they want solutions,” said Chris. “A lot of vets are time-poor and need to know that something’s going to work … there might be a reluctance to commit clients to a product that might not work.”

“If it goes wrong,” said Charlie, “it creates more work for vets.”

Upon the subject of telemedicine, it was identified within the panel that there was an opportunity to correctly charge for professional time – rather than offer free phone-calls. However, Chris noted that vets need to be careful not to “drop the baby” – that there must always be a back-up of a physical service should an animal need to be seen.

On reflecting on the future of digital solutions, Simon concluded that greater support would benefit new innovations: “There is more that can be done at an earlier stage to support tech companies.”

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