Recognizing the Value of Real-Time Care in Veterinary Medicine

Pet owners have high expectations for their pets' care — and given that quality service can lead to customer loyalty, client satisfaction is a key part of your success as a veterinarian. There is increasing demand for the delivery of real-time care, where a pet's needs are addressed during their scheduled appointment. Real-time diagnostics allow veterinarians to provide such care, and the perceived value of such testing is higher when the owner is able to see the results and how they contribute to improved patient care.

The Medical Value of Real-Time Care

In Sickness

The diagnostic algorithm that determines a sick patient's treatment plan begins with data collection. This includes obtaining a thorough history, followed by a complete physical examination and initial diagnostics that produce objective data for evaluation. Ancillary diagnostics are then performed as needed, including specialty lab tests or advanced imaging. It is in following this algorithm and step-wise acquisition of information that the clinician arrives at a preliminary diagnosis, and only then can the appropriate, patient-specific treatment be initiated based on scientific results.

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The current availability of advanced point-of-care (PoC) testing provides value by:

  • Allowing veterinarians to achieve real-time, quality diagnostic results within minutes
  • Testing at the "point of care" to simplify diagnostic processes and ensure effective and efficient care when needed through the use of in-clinic lab equipment and imaging systems
  • Providing rapid results that allow the owner and veterinarian to discuss findings and decide next steps together in that same visit, including treatment options, additional testing, or admission to the hospital for advanced care

Most notably, this real-time care allows veterinarians to help sick pets sooner. And ultimately, in an emergency situation, quick results and subsequent appropriate action can be the difference between life and death for a patient. Providing real-time care and maximizing PoC testing enables team members not only to make rapid clinical decisions when diagnosing a condition, but equally as impactful is having the ability to monitor the patient's treatment response. Complications may be recognized earlier and addressed more quickly, as well.

When the client is actively involved in timely decision-making and veterinarians are able to provide results, make a diagnosis, and initiate treatment, client compliance is markedly improved. Having a diagnosis at the appointment also affords the ability to share relevant client handouts, which increases compliance and follow-up once they leave the hospital, supporting best care practices for patients at home, as well.

In Health

For well-patient appointments, there's also added value in having PoC testing and providing a client with rapid results on routine preventive care diagnostics. By including screening bloodwork for asymptomatic patients, you may find objective data indicating conditions or problems that would have otherwise been overlooked in the exam room setting. Some findings will result in the work-up of a subclinical problem previously unknown to both doctor and pet owner. Face-to-face review of the results with the owner improves communication and shared understanding of the unanticipated findings; underscores the value in such testing; and facilitates performing many ancillary diagnostics without the owner needing to schedule another appointment.

Real-Time Care And Better Business

The value of real-time care in veterinary medicine extends beyond the direct medical benefits for patients. The client- and communication-centered workflow necessary for this care also leverages and empowers the entire team. Receptionists take up the essential role of setting the appointments and clients' expectations while technicians and assistants perform efficient in-clinic diagnostics. This allows veterinarians to use their time doing doctor-specific tasks, such as interpreting and communicating the testing results and developing effective treatment plans. When these roles are maximized, the practice's efficiency and productivity are increased, resulting in better patient care, improved client satisfaction and loyalty, and a healthier bottom line for the practice.

Holly Brown

Dr. Brown is a board-certified clinical pathologist with a passion for the practice of veterinary medicine. She left academia for a unique specialty position at a bustling general, referral, and emergency small-animal hospital in central Pennsylvania. There she enjoys contributing her pathology expertise patient-side, overseeing laboratory diagnostics, advising and educating clinicians and staff, and communicating with owners to help them better understand their pets’ laboratory abnormalities. Dr. Brown also provides continuing education on the value of laboratory diagnostics all over the globe. The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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