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Vet technology: Going digital

From banking and journey planners, to grocery shopping and instant taxi services, there’s an app for that. In the age of smartphones and instant gratification, we rely on apps to help us perform even the most mundane tasks.

So, it’s no surprise that apps are popping up all over the veterinary and pet healthcare industries.

BUT HOW DO THESE FIT INTO SUCH A TRADITIONAL PROFESSION?

The average veterinary consultation lasts ten minutes. This is barely enough time to examine the animal and take a patient history, let alone educate an owner about their pet’s condition and treatment plan.

Inevitably, owners turn to the internet to ‘educate’ themselves. But this whirlpool of conflicting, unfiltered, incorrect, and scary information can be dangerous. Whilst there are many valuable sites, wouldn’t it be great if we could direct owners to an app, designed by vets, offering accurate, safe and potentially life saving information?

The NHS are already way ahead of the trend here. Just a quick scan of the app store reveals a variety of NHS branded apps, developed in collaboration with certified GPs and doctors.

Yet the veterinary profession is lagging behind. We aren’t offering this support – at least not on the scale required.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

According to the RCVS Vet Futures Report for 2030, more than 42 percent of students and graduates were unsure if the veterinary profession embraced technology. This is our call to action. If nearly half of new veterinarians are doubting the industry’s ability to integrate and develop new technology how do we change this?

We can start with integrating mobile apps into the vet-pet-owner relationship.

Apps make it much easier for owners to monitor a pet’s condition and can be the perfect bridging point between the vet and the owner. Vets can recommend apps to the owner that break down a pet’s condition and guide owners on how to treat their pet. Owners, meanwhile, can log changes in their pet’s behaviour and access curated content to help them better care for their pet.

In principle, this sounds like an ideal platform to educate owners and guide pet care in the home.

BUT IT ISN’T WITHOUT ITS PROBLEMS

It takes very little to get an app approved and available to the masses on an app store. No veterinary approval or accreditation is needed. In fact, anyone can create an app, upload it, and market it to the general public.

Obviously, this poses massive issues for veterinarians. The information provided can be misleading or wrong. It can even be dangerous.

HOW DO WE SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

It’s time the veterinary industry got behind digital technology. We need to embrace it and grow our industry with the future in mind.

This is not to say that there are no credible veterinary and animal focused apps already available. One just has to look at the newly launched RVC Epilepsy Tracker App to see how and where apps can be a success in our industry.

The crux of the issue is that until the veterinary industry fully embraces digital technology and dominates this market there will also be apps in circulation which can’t be relied upon. Apps that put our pets at risk.

Instead of shying away from this veterinary technology revolution, we need to develop our own apps – we need to regulate what is available. That way the veterinary profession can evolve alongside technology advance. To improve the health of animals, to increase the relevancy of our profession, and to keep young, future vets engaged in the industry.

 Dr James Andrews is a leading technology expert within the veterinary community. He is currently developing cutting-edge pet tech healthcare solutions.

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