Mental Health in Veterinary Medicine: How Veterinary Telehealth Can Help
It’s no secret that mental health in veterinary medicine is tremendously suffering and continues to downward spiral. This trend began long before the arrival of Covid, but the pandemic added new stressors further compounding the issue of poor mental health within the profession. In a survey of 5000 veterinary professionals representing 91 countries, published in the May 2021 JAVMA edition, it was reported that 71% of survey respondents in the US were quite or very stressed compared to 35% pre-pandemic. Worldwide 26% of veterinary professionals were very or quite dissatisfied with their job. Not to mention that veterinarians and veterinary technicians and nurses are 4-5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general public. These statistics are heartbreaking, but there is hope! Although this problem is multi-faceted and is by no means an easy fix, there are ways to help combat the mental health crisis in vetmed, telehealth being one.
Telehealth in healthcare is growing exponentially and has the opportunity to change veterinary medicine for the better. Data shows that people are using telehealth and loving it. In one human telehealth app Ortholive, 87% of patients would use the telehealth service repeatedly. CVS Minute Clinics telehealth app had a 99% satisfaction score. Emerging data from the veterinary telehealth company WhiskerDocs is showing promising results in digital vetcare as well. With 5000 customers surveyed, 53.8% said their pet’s issue was completely resolved with virtual vetcare, while 30.5% say improvement in symptoms was noted.
Offering telehealth in your practice not only provides countless benefits to your clients and patients, but presents veterinary professionals with many advantages as well! Consider adding Anipanion’s telehealth platform to your practice to ease the stresses and burdens on you and your veterinary staff.
Telehealth Benefits for the Veterinary Professional:
1. Ability to Work from Home
The most amazing benefit of work from home life is stress reduction. Although this work style can’t relieve all the stressors of veterinary medicine, working from home can provide respite from clinic life. Being in a comforting home environment where dogs and cats can’t bite you, clients can’t berate you, and staff can’t inundate you with questions is a much needed relief from the hospital chaos! Focusing on the task at hand can seem like a luxury, but can be reality with a telehealth work from home role. You can even get your well-deserved lunch break! A change in your working environment is good for the mind and body. This can be especially beneficial for team members with family obligations- like school drop offs, unexpected lack of childcare, or injuries preventing them from lifting or bending. Those events previously would prevent the team member from working at all; with telehealth, they can still be contributors to the team.
2. Reducing Commuting Time
The average one way commute time in the US today is 27.6 minutes; that’s 55.2 minutes round trip. According to Scientific American the percentage of people commuting more than 90 minutes per day doubled between 1990 and 2000. Many studies have shown that people commuting long-distance suffer more psychosomatic health issues than those with short trips to work. Symptoms ranging from head and backaches to insomnia and hypertension can plague those stuck in the car for long periods of time commuting to and from work. Working telehealth from home can not only improve mental well-being, but can give you time back in your day. Time is so valuable and 1 hour per day can mean more personal time, workout time, hobby time, time with friends and family, more sleep. What would 1 extra hour in your day do for you?
3. Optimizing and Simplifying the Work Day
A telehealth visit may be shorter, but could be just as effective as an in person appointment depending on the medical issue. Streamlining discussion with clients using telehealth will allow for shorter appointment times, thus, more clients can be helped daily and you will have more time back in your day. With telehealth being the veterinary staff member’s sole task, distraction is minimized creating a more focused work environment. Workflow is in control of the veterinary professional versus clientele and their pet’s dictating the progress of the day. You chose your schedule.
4. Shift in “Do it All” Mentality
An unfortunate theme in veterinary medicine is one must do it all. You have to see all the appointments, do all the surgeries, treat all the walk-ins , fix all the emergencies, while effectively communicating with all your clients, managing staff, navigating a post-pandemic world, and integrating new services into your practice…and all this with a smile on your face. This is an impossible feat and is sure to push our best and brightest out of the profession. Veterinary telehealth is one small way to mitigate this by refocusing vet staff to a telehealth role or or task. Give a veterinary staff member work from home shifts to focus only on client communication while getting a reprieve from demanding hospital life. This will benefit the staff in multiple ways while diverting client communications from hospital phone lines, creating value in telehealth for the client, and allowing the veterinary staff member time to shift focus and de escalate from the clinic pandemonium.
5. Save our Hospitals!
General Practitioners and ER vets alike are overrun with sick pets and anxious clients. The need for veterinary care is exceeding the resources of the veterinary industry. While this is great for business and practices are seeing more revenue than ever before, there are devastating consequences for our veterinary professionals. Highly skilled, motivated, and compassionate veterinarians and vet staff members are leaving the profession. Hospitals are understaffed while dealing with the increased caseload. Practices are shutting their doors permanently.
Telehealth can help! In a retrospective study completed by WhiskerDocs, only 7.3% of pets that were triaged required ER care after a telehealth session, while 40% required a less urgent scheduled vet visit, and 52.7% could receive home based care and monitoring. Telehealth has the ability to triage patients from home, monetize the communication, and keep pets out of the ER or general practice that don’t need it. This will ease the burden of high patient volume on our GP and ER vet staff, and will create better client satisfaction and trust in your hospital. Pet parents will be very thankful and will continue to return for service because you were available in their time of need and saved them time and money. Your vet staff will be happy to leave on time when that end of day “emergency” was triaged using Anipanion and able to be monitored at home.
Consumers not only want, but expect virtual options and immediate access. People now need digital means for work, school, groceries, banking, shopping, healthcare, and now vetcare. Over 50% of people used telehealth in human healthcare in 2020. This number is only expected to rise and veterinary medicine needs to adapt to the consumer reliance on digital health care.
Yes, people want veterinary telehealth, but veterinarians need telehealth. As reluctant as we are as a profession to embrace this technology into our practices, we owe it to ourselves to create a more balanced work space; one filled with more time, flexibility, and improved headspace to better care for our patients, pet parents, and most importantly, ourselves. Telehealth is not a replacement for vetcare, but an added level of service for you and your clientele. Let Anipanion do this for you and let telehealth into your practice for the better.