December 15, 2013


 Navigating a sea of technology

Taking a quick look at online resources for veterinarians

Posted Dec. 4, 2013


Technology can be both a blessing and a curse. The latter manifests in the form of clients consulting “Dr. Google” and telling their practitioner what their pet’s diagnosis is before they get past the examination room doorway. The former means the clinician being able to look up in a matter of seconds the correct dosage of phenobarbital for an epileptic Beagle.  

Nowadays, a bevy of websites and apps and other software can put a massive amount of information and capabilities at veterinarians’ fingertips to help them do everything from access important medical information to improve a clinic’s marketing strategy.

Trying to sort through these resources can be overwhelming, though. The following are a few relevant selections that appear in various platforms.

Learning on the go

The realm of continuing education is one area that has changed substantially, thanks to evolutions in video and interactive capabilities online.

VetGirl is a subscription-based podcast service offering Registry of Approved Continuing Education–approved veterinary CE via a multimedia approach to learning that’s designed to help veterinarians in clinical practice.

CEO and co-founder Dr. Justine Lee said she came up with the idea 10 years ago when she was studying for her emergency and critical care specialty board examination. She wanted to go for a run but didn’t have time for it.

At the time, the iPhone hadn’t even debuted, and technological capabilities were limited. So, Dr. Lee’s idea didn’t come to fruition until this past year when she was studying for another board examination. That’s when she decided to partner with Dr. Garret Pachtinger, a fellow criticalist, in putting together resources for busy veterinarians. They created VetGirl.

“I’m passionate about providing practical CE that veterinary professionals can bring back to their clinic in the form of podcasts and webinars,” Dr. Lee said. “Veterinarians have a lot of time poverty; we’re workaholics. We don’t have time to keep up on a lot of the current veterinary literature.”

The site offers two subscription models. VetGirl Standard costs $99 annually and allows access to weekly podcasts posted every Monday. VetGirl Elite costs $199 a year, and, in addition to the more than 50 podcasts, subscribers gain access to 12 hours of RACE-approved CE through live or recorded webinars that count as passive, or noninteractive, CE. They are mobile-friendly, allowing veterinarians as well as veterinary technicians or students to get CE while on a run or driving.

Another online-accessible CE source is Veritas. The peer-reviewed CE program was launched in 2012, created by a public-private partnership involving the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and Zoetis (see JAVMA, Oct. 1, 2012).
Seven courses were available as of mid-November, ranging from a free case study in cardiology to a five-credit course on CPR for $295.

Back to school

Meanwhile, veterinary colleges have begun to offer their vast educational resources in free, interactive, and easily digestible formats online.

For example, recent or not-so-recent graduates can take refresher courses on topics relating to surgery, pathobiology, and large and small animal medicine offered by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s Computer Aided Learning program.  CAL projects have graphics, video clips, and case study formats to engage users in the learning process.

The Cornell veterinary college’s online textbook, eClinPath, touches on hemogram basics and hemostasis, and reviews clinical biochemical analyses—panels and individual tests—including variables affecting test results, reference interval determination, and test result pattern recognition by body system or physiologic process.

And The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Nutritional Support Service gives a comprehensive—albeit basic—outline on finding the proper diet for pets.

Across the pond, a collaborative initiative involving U.K. veterinary schools created the WikiVet project in 2007. Its aim is to create an online knowledge base that covers the entire veterinary curriculum and provides a reliable reference source. The site requires a login, but registration is free for veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and veterinarians anywhere in the world. WikiVet is also available as an app.

Speaking of apps (see article), VetPDA Calcs was developed by the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2010 and contains 20 calculators for veterinary clinical use.

“Initially designed to make life easier for veterinary students during their clinical training, this app is useful for all veterinary professionals,” said Dr. Jan Ilkiw, associate dean, in a UC-Davis press release. “For example, the app can calculate recommended dosages for over 40 anesthetic drugs, analyze blood gas values to aid interpretation, and assist with constant rate infusion calculations for drug administration.”

VetPDA Calcs includes body surface area, drip rate, and conversion calculators. The $4.99 cost includes updates to the app, which is available online from the iTunes App Store.
The University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine has developed the Canine Inherited Diseases Database, a guide to common diseases and conditions seen in various dog breeds. It contains disease listings and short descriptions, genetic and molecular genetic summaries when known, and entry points to the scientific literature on each disease or condition.

Web design made easy

While veterinarians may have plenty of resources to access online, clients also expect veterinarians to have an online presence. Many clinics nowadays have their own website, but finding the right content management system can be a daunting task for some practitioners, particularly those who are less tech-savvy. 

Three of the most common open-source publishing platforms are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. All are free to download and start using, but extra capabilities, such as more storage, design templates, or a custom domain name, come at additional cost.

WordPress has been held up by many as user friendly and well suited for beginning website operators. This content management system allows a user’s website to be managed from any computer by multiple users, without any of them having to know how to code. A website’s functionality can be extended with the system’s plugins, including a video gallery, event calendar, and Twitter feed.
Joomla is another option. The latest version, Joomla 3.1, has more than 10,000 extensions available, such as RSS feeds, printable versions of pages, blogs, polls, search functions, and support for language internationalization. It also offers capabilities for developing mobile-friendly websites.

For those with a more advanced understanding of Web design, Drupal may be the way to go. This publishing platform has been described by Computerworld as “powerful but complex.” Clinics with a high volume of clients to categorize into groups and access patterns might want to opt for this system.

To learn about how to develop a website and more, ​ offers software training and thousands of tutorials. It covers everything from Adobe products, such as Dreamweaver and Photoshop, to creation of spreadsheets and videos to project management fundamentals. The site has four subscription models, from $25 a month to $375 a year.

Funny bone

Finally, for those wanting a break from posting on their website or looking up dosages, there is plenty of entertainment online geared toward veterinarians. The Twitter account Vet World Problems relates the uniquely odd issues seen in practices every day. Recent examples are “The sweets I hide at the back of my vaccine fridge have run out” or “Praying under your breath that you haven’t gone straight through the skin when vaccinating a rabbit.” Here, practitioners can relate to humorous moments in the clinic and laugh at everyday mishaps. For example, “I get a kick out of my doctors and owners doing impressions of reverse sneezing.”

And don’t miss the veterinary comic site and the Dog Shaming blog, which give owners an outlet for outing the misdeeds of their pets, including a dog eating a stethoscope and a dog racking up $500 in veterinary bills before passing a corncob.

Don’t forget, the AVMA has a wealth of online resources,

including the Veterinary Career Center, widgets

updates on pet food and product recallsand more,

located in the website’s Practice Management section.