At the recently held NAVC E-Commerce Summit in Kansas City, there was lots of great discussion about the changes taking place in the pet industry. Speakers talked about the changing dynamics in the pet retail space, how more and more consumers are using devices like Alexa to shop, how AI is being used in the animal health space, and millennial pet owners. And two talks were specifically about telehealth in the pet space.
Of course, telehealth has been immensely popular in human health for a long time. Yet it is still a bit of the Wild West when it comes to telehealth in the pet space, despite it having been around for many years. Starting with poison helplines, there are now various forms of telehealth, whether that be pet owners contacting veterinarians or veterinary nurses to get some triage advice, clinic clients communicating with their veterinarian, or other veterinarians connecting with board specialists over video to do a consult.
While there are companies out there today like whiskerDocs or LifeLearn’s PetNurse product, there remain more questions than answers today when it comes to telehealth, telemedicine, and teletriage—especially as things continue to change.  The following are some points that were made at the E-Commerce Summit by Mark Cushing, CEO & Founder of the Animal Policy Group, LLC:

  • There have been a number of clinics that have already adopted a telemedicine solution or are in the midst of trials.
  • To date, there have been no complaints with state boards about telemedicine.
  • This lack of complaints is powerful—no data that telemedicine doesn’t work or is harmful.
  • The “harmful” argument is what critics use, and it’s pure speculation.
  • Both the AAVSB and VIC developed model rules after two years of study: Let the DVM decide whether information gained via digital is sufficient to begin the relationship.
  • Remember, we’re only talking about “starting” a relationship.
  • 49 of 50 states allow this in human medicine.
  • Fears about clients not visiting clinics have proven false.
  • Yet no state VMAs or the AVMA are supporting this, except Oklahoma.
  • So, millennials and Gen Zs are getting a very negative message, and they’re frustrated.
  • They are going to go around the system, while organized veterinary medicine keeps its head in the sand.
  • And the industry sits on the sidelines.

Certainly some thought-provoking statements. There is no doubt that telehealth in the pet space will continue to evolve as pet owners will demand it.
Through sharing and discussion of knowledge, new insights and viewpoints in the animal health industry, we ultimately share the most essential tool to help advance animal health and education worldwide. To that end, I invite you to share this newsletter with colleagues. All the best.

Randy Valpy
President & CEO

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