Technology has become an important part of our daily lives. As a result, telecommuting is now well established in many businesses in Quebec and veterinary medicine is no exception.
This less conventional approach seems to be destined to remain and to establish itself as an alternative and complementary work method to the traditional clinic consultation.
An important concept in telemedicine is the establishment of a veterinary-client-patient relationship. This relationship is defined by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) as "relevant and timely interaction between the veterinarian, the animal owner and the animal patient(s)". This interaction takes the form of consultations (on-farm or in clinic), examinations of the animal or group of animals, laboratory reports, etc. By this definition, a veterinarian-client-patient relationship can be effectively established with telemedicine.
Before presenting the benefits of telemedicine, it is important to discuss the communication between the veterinarian and the client through this technology. The virtual meeting is halfway between telephone communication and a face-to-face meeting. Thus, it is possible to see the interlocutor and, therefore, to interpret his non-verbal language. This aspect is an important part of the communication between two individuals.
There are several advantages to telemedicine, both in the current pandemic context and in the longer term.
The first positive point is the possibility of providing a veterinary service in all regions of Quebec. Some so-called remote regions have a crying need for veterinarians for both pets and large animals. Currently, this phenomenon is problematic even in large urban areas such as Montreal. Telemedicine allows veterinarians from other regions to support those who cannot meet the needs of their clients. In the case of backyard birds, for example, some regions simply do not have veterinarians offering services for these species. These clients, in the absence of professional guidance, turn to alternative methods, such as ordering medications from other countries, which can lead to misuse of veterinary products, diagnostic errors, etc.
In addition, veterinary costs are reduced in a telecommuting situation since the veterinarian does not have to travel to the client's location. The amount can quickly become considerable (for example, $160 for 50 km). This has a significant impact on the budget available for the treatment of the animal, which is often rather limited. Husbandry medicine also limits the ability of some clients to travel to the clinic with affected animals. It is then interesting to use telemedicine to perform a visual examination of the animals.
Another important advantage for both the client and the veterinarian is the flexibility in scheduling. Telemedicine makes it easy to offer consultations outside of normal working hours. This aspect is particularly interesting for pet owners who also have a full-time job outside of their farm and who cannot always make themselves available during office hours.
Finally, the last important benefit to consider is the reduced risk of infectious disease transmission. Although biosecurity rules are generally followed diligently by veterinarians, mistakes can be made. In addition, farm owners are not always equipped to properly apply biosecurity measures. In addition, many diseases are difficult to identify because of the presence of asymptomatic carriers. Telemedicine thus makes it possible to avoid going directly to the farms and greatly reduces indirect contact between the husbandry visited.
In summary, telemedicine has several significant advantages. It offers a quality service to animal owners, especially for certain species or types of non-standard farms (e.g. backyard) for which veterinary services are more limited.