#5: Prepare Your Team & Clients
Successful implementation or expansion of a telehealth program is a team effort. Success depends on buy-in and return on investment for both your veterinary team and your clients, and it’s important that your patients actually benefit as well. Your goals should be for your team and clients to be engaged and active advocates of your telehealth services.
A client-centered approach to both education and adoption is important. How can you ensure the transition is seamless and frictionless? Think through the telehealth experience from the client’s perspective and be prepared to respond to questions about when the use of telemedicine is appropriate, how to access the technology, and how to make appointments or schedule follow-ups. When introducing telehealth technology (e.g., wearables for remote monitoring) into your diagnostic or treatment plan, make sure clients understand how this technology has the potential to improve patient outcomes. Or, when you choose to integrate AI-assisted diagnostics to support in-house capabilities or share ECGs, radiographs, or lab results with specialists for a teleconsultation, point out how this expands your practice to a world of global experts.
- Educate staff on the new workflows, clinical protocols, and operations.
- Ensure there is clarity about individual roles and responsibilities for team members (e.g., veterinarians, veterinary technicians, client service representatives).
- Identify the types of training needed and who is going to provide it.
- If you are introducing new technologies and your staff resources are limited, ask vendors about training support.
- Have one or more staff members who are unfamiliar with the technology test it. If they cannot easily use it, the technology may be too complicated.
- Conduct internal telehealth appointment “dry runs” prior to seeing actual clients. Use these as rehearsals and to make adjustments or troubleshoot any technology that needs to be recalibrated or repositioned, or for which additional training is needed.
- Develop marketing messages to highlight telehealth’s benefits, including greater accessibility, convenience, more timely and accurate diagnosis, increased access to specialty care, and faster response times. Create or source from vendors client educational materials on how to use communication platforms; how to share photos, videos, and data from remote monitors for assessment; and best practices for successful appointment outcomes.
- Ensure client enthusiasm for telehealth by setting clear expectations up front—from what tools are available and how they can be used, to invoicing, to how technologies and consultations integrate with and support in-person visits.
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.