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#2: Identify Needs

Telehealth has a wide variety of applications and uses from front-desk scheduling, prescription refills, and billing all the way to patient evaluations and followups. Understanding your practice’s specific needs and your clients’ aspirations is central in the planning phase to making wise telehealth service choices.

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TIP: Start small by focusing on your top priority, then scale into others as team and client adoption increases.

ACTION ITEMS

  • Convene a focus group that includes a cross section of your clients and veterinary team members to better understand what they see as opportunities and areas of need.
  • Determine which of the identified areas can be addressed by telehealth. Examples of pain points might be barriers to in-person visits, hours of current operation, low compliance with follow-ups, staff shortages, and compassion fatigue. Examples of opportunities might be integrating AI-assisted diagnostic services, ongoing remote monitoring to improve patient assessments and outcomes, or teleconsultations with specialists to expand your services beyond your clinic walls for complex cases.
  • Identify anything that would impact your ability to move forward with delivering telehealth services and consider possible solutions. Example: You would like to identify an appropriate location to conduct telehealth consultations and recognize you will need proper lighting, quality audio, a viewing monitor, and potentially other electronic equipment. You would also like to incorporate an exam table for those times when the patient may be present in your practice and you want to communicate with an owner remotely. One option is to outfit an existing patient exam room appropriately so that it may be used for both in-person visits and telehealth consultations. Reviewing space use, however, you see you also have two part-time staff on alternate schedules who could share an office, freeing space for repurposing.
  • Assess your available resources and prioritize your telehealth options and objectives around the most urgent needs or greatest demand.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, and Merck Animal Health have supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice and resources through an educational grant to AAHA.