Technology, telehealth, and building a team were the focus of sessions at the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ annual convention, Dec. 7-11, 2019, in Denver.
Among the key takeaways from these sessions were the fact that a solo equine practitioner doesn’t have to practice alone and that hiring a team and embracing technology can make a practice run smoother.
Rebecca Rose, founder of Catalyst Veterinary Practice Consultants, discussed the complexities of hiring for an equine practice in three separate sessions.
In “How to Strategically Hire Paraprofessionals: Tips and Tricks of the Trade,” she discussed hiring veterinary technicians, practice managers, and similar employees.
Rose worked as a certified veterinary technician at a mixed animal practice in Colorado for 13 years, where she learned about the specific challenges that mixed animal and equine practices face.
JAVMA News spoke with Rose about her experience and some hiring tips she suggests for practice owners.
Rose said veterinarians, even solo equine practitioners, need to have project managers and certified veterinary technicians on their side so they can do more veterinary-related work.
“Every time a veterinarian isn’t ... doing veterinary work, they are losing money,” she said.
Rose suggested that veterinarians interested in hiring more staff first evaluate the duties and tasks that they can let go of by sitting down with a list of their routine tasks and determining what they can delegate to a practice manager or veterinary technician. Then, they should evaluate whether they can pay someone enough to take over those tasks.
Use of telemedicine-related technology has increased in the veterinary profession over the past few years, but for equine practitioners in the field, implementing this technology isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.
Dr. Cris Navas, assistant professor of cardiology, medicine, and diagnostic imaging at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, discussed the benefits and potential uses of telemedicine technology in the session, “How to Use Telehealth to Grow Your Equine Practice.”
Benefits of the technology include the potential to reach more people and more animals, but one of the limitations is the need for a strong internet connection, Dr. Navas said.
“I think equine veterinarians are a little behind in the process. Maybe it is the logistics, maybe it is the (emphasis placed on) the personal relationship and trust between an equine veterinarian and a horse owner,” Dr. Navas said.
Every time a veterinarian isn’t ... doing veterinary work, they are losing money.
Rebecca Rose, founder, Catalyst Veterinary Practice Consultants
Teleradiology is likely the most common form of telemedicine in the equine field, he said. Dr. Navas regularly provides teleradiology services by setting up a video feed through his computer with a veterinarian in the field who is performing ultrasonography on a patient. He can then offer a consultation in real time while sitting in his office or at home.
“Traditionally, veterinarians send a couple of still images or clips, but if you are doing it in real time, you can see the whole thing. Also, you can discuss the clinical presentation and say, ‘Will you show me this? Or can you get that same image a little higher or lower?’ I think we gather more useful information this way.”
As technology continues to advance, so, too, do the capabilities that veterinarians can find on their phones.
In a session called “Utilizing Phone Apps,” Drs. Benjamin R. Buchanan, a veterinarian at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas; Ernest H. Martinez II, a veterinarian at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute who also oversees the intern and extern programs there; and Lisa Kivett, owner of Foundation Equine Clinic in Southern Pines, North Carolina, discussed apps relevant for equine veterinarians.
Dr. Buchanan said attendees discussed apps that allow veterinarians to create to-do lists, enhance their well-being, and connect with their clients. The discussion also included tips and tricks from attendees on how to use certain apps such as how to use FaceTime for teleheath-related calls or how to download an app that can scan and save handwritten field notes.
The University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Library has a list of free veterinary apps that can be useful in practice, including the following programs:
Alive ECG Vet, an app that provides an instant ECG readout. The app requires a heart monitor to use.
Foal CPR, an app that details at-birth CPR for foals.
Hagyard Pharmacy Mobile Formulary, an app that contains equine drug indications, dose, route, and frequency.
Vetivex Flow Rate Calculator, an app that calculates IV fluid requirements and infusion rates.
Only the last app is available on Android devices.
The library also lists a few paid apps that are available, including the following programs:
Equine Drugs, an app that includes a dosage calculator and infusion calculator for over 405 drugs.
Equine Dermatology, an app that breaks down diseases, clinical signs, and treatment with photograph examples.
Equine Reproductive Ultrasound, an app that covers the equine female reproductive tract.
Horse Anatomy: Equine 3D, an anatomy app that covers most muscles, bones, and organs.
The first and last apps are available on Android devices.
Despite the potential of using some of these, Dr. Buchanan suggested starting small.
“Pick one at a time, and try it out. If you try to download them all, it gets overwhelming,” he said.