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Keep scheduling those wellness appointments with teletriage service

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You don’t have to cancel wellness exams to keep your staff safe from coronavirus.

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) is urging lawmakers to classify veterinary practices as essential businesses. That includes endorsing telemedicine as an important way to protect the health of veterinary team members during the coronavirus pandemic: “During this time, telemedicine and, in particular, teletriage has emerged as an important way to support and monitor the health of veterinary patients, and also protect the health of veterinary teams,” states the AAVSB.

Using telemedicine can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while helping hospitals conserve personnel resources at the same time.

If you’re new to telemedicine and feel overwhelmed at the thought of implementing it in your hospital while you’re already being run ragged trying to keep up with what seem like daily changing protocols for coping with COVID-19, several companies offer remote telehealth services to help you get started.

GuardianVets is an after-hours triage service that's offering a discounted flat fee for any GuardianVets member practice that needs daytime support right now. TeleVet offers a simplified telemedicine service that fits in with your existing workflow. Petriage offers a range of telemedicine services to fit a variety of needs. BabelBark is an integrated app and software system that helps pet businesses and veterinarians connect directly to customers and clients.

NEWStat took a closer look at what partnering with a telehealth service might look like. Babelbark is currently providing a free 24/7 veterinary help hotline for triage. BabelBark has joined with whiskerDocs, a leading provider of telehealth support for pet owners, to ensure all practices can continue to offer critical medical care—and keep their staff and clients safe. This service will assist hospitals in the United States and Canada to conduct patient assessments and continue veterinary care remotely at no cost for the next 60 days.

Here’s how it works: A client calls the 24/7 veterinary help hotline, where the pet’s medical needs are triaged remotely. Each veterinary practice then receives details of the call and outcomes to ensure continuity of care by the hospital’s team. If the teletriage helpline determines that a medical need exists for a patient to be seen in-office, that information is relayed to the hospital and practice staff. 

Bruce Truman, BabelBark’s vice-president of business development, says BabelBark was inspired to make the offer when they saw that practices were canceling things like wellness and dental exams, and starting to worry about paying their staff: “They were saying things like, ‘If we’re cancelling dentals and we’re cancelling wellness, I’m in a real financial pickle.’”

He says the BabelBark platform can help practices keep those appointments remotely.

“The practice can refer all triage cases to the service, or just after-hours cases,” Truman says. “Or use it for overflow. Say I had ten staff members coming in this morning, now I only have five—how am I going to manage this? Well, you send all cases that are triage to our support line.” WhiskerDocs staff will assess the case and make a recommendation. If the recommendation is that the client and patient see the veterinary practice, they will inform the client and the patient of that. “When the practice has time, they review the recommendations and check back in with those clients.”

Truman says the critical thing that impacts a veterinary practice’s bottom line revenue right now is the cancellation of wellness visits. ”They should not cancel wellness visits,” Truman says. “They should instead rebook them for remote care, charge the same thing, and do the necessary prescriptions for at least 12 to 18 months.”

By using the BabelBark platform, Truman says, “Veterinarians [can] maintain continuity of care and do business as usual, but do it remotely.”

After the 60 days are up, AAHA-accredited members who choose to continue using the platform will receive a 10% discount on BabelBark services, among other benefits. Find out more about BabelBark’s teletriage offer here, and more about other AAHA Preferred Business Providers.

Photo credit: © iStock/verbaska_studio