Teletriage is a great service to offer your clients- both during business hours and after hours. Most practices have already been doing this for years, traditionally by phone. Moving your clients from phone teletriage to chat or video through the Anipanion app means that you can now see the pet through pictures and videos, have the interaction recorded, charge for the service, and more easily document the pet’s health needs in the medical record.
Teletriage can occur with or without a VCPR, as you are not diagnosing, treating or prescribing to the patient. You (meaning the veterinarian, technician, or medically skilled CSR) are simply providing advice on the seriousness of a situation, whether or not the patient needs to come in, and what the client should expect to do if the situation worsens. Teletriage can be as simple as calming a first-time pet owner who is worried about a single sneeze, or sending a potential GDV straight to emergency.
Most clients want decision support and guidance. They just want to know what to do in a situation that is scary to them. Being available to provide this advice is a great client acquisition tool and relationship builder.
Typically, we see one of the following outcomes when triage is provided, assuming a technician is providing the triage (which is the most efficient way to provide the service):
- The patient is stable and the concern is minor- no need to come in. Providing education and calming client worries without requiring an in-person visit will build the client’s trust in your practice and help the client save their finances for more serious situations.
- The patient is stable, but the condition warrants a telehealth visit with a veterinarian. In this case, scheduling a video consultation or having the veterinarian chat asynchronously directly with the client is a great next step. If a VCPR is present, diagnosis, treatment, or prescription through telehealth may be appropriate. Be sure to provide information to the client on what symptoms to watch for that could signal the patient needing an in-person visit.
- The patient is stable, but the condition warrants an in-person visit. In this case, the technician should schedule an in-person visit and then provide as much information as possible on the seriousness of the situation, potential diagnostic needs, a basic estimate, and anything else that could prepare the client for an in-person visit.
- The patient is not stable, and your practice is available for urgent care. In this case, the technician should provide basic information but express the urgency for getting the patient to the practice as quickly as possible. The technician can send information on estimates and diagnostic needs while the client is en route to the practice so the information is available as soon as the client has a moment to read it.
- The patient is not stable, and needs to go to the emergency clinic immediately. In this case, the technician should refer the client to the most appropriate location and express the urgency of the situation. While the client is en route to the emergency room, the technician can send information on what the client should expect at the emergency room, such as diagnostics and costs.
We recommend that your team creates protocols around teletriage. What constitutes an emergency? What is your practice comfortable recommending for home-care for various minor conditions? Having set protocols and decision trees will increase your team’s confidence and consistency when making recommendations.
Your clients will truly appreciate the benefits of teletriage. Fewer trips to the emergency room, better education and support, increased access to their veterinary team, and more appropriate use of financial resources are just some of the benefits. Your team will also appreciate the benefits of teletriage. Your technicians’ skills can be better utilized, your practice will increase revenue through charging for the teletriage interaction as well as redirecting clients from going to emergency back into your practice, and your clients will be better prepared for their visits. In addition, teletriage (and tele-everything) can be done from home, which can increase your team’s wellbeing.