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Role of Telemedicine in the ‘New Normal’ for Equine Veterinary CareSeptember 2020

Story by: Jackie Bellamy Zions


Equine Guelph has been getting questions on access to their equine veterinarian. The new COVID-19: A Guide to Reopening Veterinary Medicine in Ontario, Stage 3 , prepared by Dr. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM University of Guelph and the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association was released August 24, 2020. It is meant to be a useful guide and the following recommendations were made regarding the topics of telemedicine and reducing client contact:


Telemedicine

Having an animal visit the clinic or a veterinarian visit the farm or household will be necessary in many situations. However, telemedicine should be approached as the default method to deal with a patient or farm question. A triage approach should be used, whereby telemedicine options are considered first, and in-person visits are used when telemedicine is not appropriate. Veterinarians should remain apprised of College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) guidance on telemedicine.

As an alternative to allowing clients in the building, practices may offer clients the ability to view and participate in the patient visit while they wait in their car via Facetime, Skype or a dedicated telemedicine application.


Hybrid Appointments

There are many situations where telemedicine cannot be used as the sole approach but could still be an effective means of limiting client contact during an appointment. For example, a new puppy appointment could be first conducted via telemedicine, to obtain the history and discuss various issues. This could be followed by a shorter clinic visit for physical examination and vaccination. Since the discussion was already had, the animal’s visit could effectively be performed without the owner present in the clinic.


Here is what a handful of veterinarians have to say about telemedicine:

“I think large animal vets are already accustomed to fielding phone calls and reviewing client videos to determine if a visit to the farm is in order,” says Dr. Laura Frost – Halton Equine Services. “Telemedicine is a really good tool if a client is in a remote location.”

Halton Equine has used telemedicine a handful of times since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. In cases where a visit to the farm was deemed necessary, Frost says their practice has waived the initial telemedicine fee and applied it to the cost of the visit.