Today’s Veterinary Business Staff
Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2 million Optimum Wellness Plan clients can obtain veterinary advice remotely through the Banfield mobile app.
The new telehealth service, called Vet Chat, is available 24 hours a day. Users won’t receive a diagnosis or prescription order, but they will be told whether their pet should see a veterinarian.
“Vet Chat marks the next chapter in the future of pet care, and we’re thrilled to offer a service that benefits our clients, their pets and our veterinary teams,” Banfield President Brian Garish said.
The doctor on the other end of Vet Chat does not have access to a pet’s medical records. The one-on-one discussion is intended to offer guidance and steer pet owners away from using internet search results to self-diagnose and treat a health issue.
According to Banfield, a recent survey found that 39% of pet owners “admit they sometimes struggle to decide when to call the veterinarian” and that 37% “prefer to consult the internet first.”
The company operates 1,050 hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico.
The veterinarians answering Vet Chat inquiries are not Banfield doctors. Instead, they’re with Ask.Vet, a telehealth service operated by app developer Vet24seven Inc.
“The new service is intended to help our hospital teams spend less time on the phone and more time treating pets that truly need care, and give clients peace of mind and on-demand access to a reputable source for pet health advice outside of hospital operating hours,” a Banfield spokeswoman said.
Veterinary telehealth is in its infancy relative to the widespread use of similar tools in human medicine.
Innovation Station columnist Aaron Massecar, Ph.D., writing in the June/July 2019 issue of Today’s Veterinary Business, called veterinary telehealth a “maturing” field and “another way that veterinary professionals can increase access to care.”
Reacting to the Vet Chat announcement, he said the service “makes good business sense, too, getting more tails through the door faster.”
Dr. Massecar is assistant director of continuing education at Colorado State University’s Translational Medicine Institute and former executive director of the Veterinary Innovation Council.