Veterinary consultations via Skype for tablets and smartphones?

Vet consultations by video link

A form of “Telemedicine” (video consultations) for cats should be considered by veterinarians. What I am thinking of is:

  • a veterinarian providing a consultation over a video call using Skype or some other video conferencing software on a smartphone or a tablet computer. All these devices have excellent built in cameras and are designed for this kind of use.
  • avoiding the stress of going to the vet’s clinic. We know how stressful this is for cats and caretakers. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a need to try and ameliorate the difficulties associated with taking a cat to the vet. One reason why cats are taken to the vet much less than dogs is because cats dislike vet visits much more than dogs.

Now….obviously not all consultations can be successfully carried out by Skype and a tablet computer. Sometimes a vet needs to palpate (feel) the cat and to look at the cat and be in the cat’s presence for all manner of good diagnostic reasons.

But…sometimes an initial, or follow up, consultation via smart phone video link will be more than adequate. A protocol acceptable to the governing bodies could be drafted, which lists the sort of video consultations that are approved.

Also, I think it is fair to say that with a video link, and the cat caretaker’s assistance, some palpation and visual inspection can take place under the vet’s guidance. A lot of cat caretakers are very knowledgeable and adept at handling their cat. A video smartphone connection would suit these people at least some of the time provided they were equally adept at handling a computer ;)!

It is a question of using modern technology, which has progressed in leaps and bounds, to provide a more modern and improved service to the domestic cat.

You can see some of the other advantages to the those listed above:

  1. Convenience. What is the cat’s caretaker is unable to get to his vet and wants a quick consultation for his cat that has already been seen by his vet? A quick video link allows the vet to see the cat and discuss the matter at the same time.
  2. Flexibility. A video consultation cannot substitute a one-to-one conventional consultation but it can supplement it. It is an add-on. It’s an alternative option for the veterinarian should he or she wish to take that option.
  3. Receiving a veterinary consultation outside the home for an injured or stray cat. Smartphones have permanent internet connections and would be ideal under these circumstances.

Doctors phone people and provide advice. The NHS direct line service was set up to provide a telemedicine service. Pharmacists provide occasional medical advice. These are options.

The veterinary profession could be more flexible and imaginative in how they deliver their service, especially to cats who are particularly susceptible to stress when out of their comfort zone of familiar surroundings.

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Veterinary consultations via Skype for tablets and smartphones? — 14 Comments

  1. Excellent- the amount of times I wish I could have spoken to a vet directly there and then! Could even call another one for a second opinion. Having to move a cat exacerbates illness and is ideally avoided. Also home call vets for cats. Things like home visit blood tests – routine things that needn’t be done at the vets, for cats.

    • Good, I am pleased you agree there is some merit in the idea. Home call vets are ideal for nervous cats but the cost is prohibitive for a lot of people and they might be a delay.

      I sense that there is a gap in the service provided by vets that can be filled by using modern technology.

      As you state a quick video chat with a skilled cat specialist and vet tech could deal with lots of anxieties about cat health and help the cat caretaker make a better informed decision as to what to do next.

      It may even make cat owners go to the vet more often or sooner.

  2. Yes this would be a wonderful idea in some ways, but I’d imagine one not welcomed by most vets, for the simple reason that they couldn’t charge the huge consultation fee they do at the surgery.
    Going to the vets is very stressful for cats (and for us who have to take them) but they couldn’t be treated without going in, so yes while it would be good for advice on small worries (are any worries small for us if our cats are unwell?) and for follow up consultations, I don’t think I’d like to consult our vets that way.
    But we are lucky, we can talk to our vet on the telephone, she will always ring back if she’s busy.

    • This Skype and smartphone mobile visits work very well for me and my cats. I am adamant about not transporting Shrimptaro unless absolutely necessary. Veterinarians who are keen to this do have consultation fees, etc. for this, which I am certainly more than happy to pay. especially for this service.

    • I agree that is it probably not commercial enough. Although vets could use it as a way of getting people into the clinic as well as provide initial advice.

      Think what a skilled cat specialist vet tech could do over a video link. It could be an initial enquiry to provide advice on the urgency of the health problem and some initial advice on treatments etc. Also an excellent way to do a quick follow up check.

      A lot of cat owners are unsure if their cat needs vet treatment and delay. A video consultation might overcome that obstacle.

  3. Thanks for this article! Several weeks ago Dr. Hush Puppy had to have an upper canine extracted. The next day the extraction site started looking “funky”. How can you explain “funky” on the phone to your vet? So I snapped a couple of photos on my phone and texted the pics to my vet, who was able to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment immediately. It had started getting infected. Happy to report that the infection has healed completely.

    I think this is a good example of how a smart phone can be used- and the benefits that can be derived from using this method.

  4. I’m ambivalent about this.
    If the contacts were scheduled, so not to be intrusive, and were for simple issues such as advise or routine follow-ups, I could see the benefit and convenience.
    I would never expect or want my vet to render a diagnosis or prescribe treatment without an eye-on, hands-on visit. I would doubt that any vet would, for the sake of his license, want to either.

    • If the contacts were scheduled, so not to be intrusive, and were for simple issues such as advise or routine follow-ups, I could see the benefit and convenience.

      This is what I am thinking. Some things can be done this way, I feel sure. As long as we know what can and can’t be done it would be an extra string in the bow as we say. It would be another option. There are a lot of possibilities.

      What about a specialised vet tech who was on hand to give video advice and who knew cats really well? Vets are generalists not specialists. It could be about all kinds of things are worrying a cat caretaker some of which won’t really need a vet consultation at the surgery. Just a thought.

      • Absolutely. I think I could rely on vet nurses to give me some sound mrdical advice and techs to give me some good educational material.
        Let’s ask our vet nurse, Ruth AKA.

        • Ok, thinking about Dorothy’s recent experience here:

          and knowing from my own experience there are good vet nurses (techs) and receptionists and bad vet nurses and receptionists, I wouldn’t totally trust any advice given on a serious matter, without having spoken to a vet.
          The rule in my day was if unsure ask the vet! Bigfoot could have died had Dorothy just ‘dropped him off for someone to look at when they had time’
          Supposing Dorothy was someone inexperienced with cats who hadn’t had the sense to know that was bad advice?
          I’ve also read that in America some vet techs and receptionists aren’t that well trained, I don’t know if it’s true of course and I’m sure some are excellent and knowledgeable and care about animals and the same goes for any country of course, you need to know and trust the person with your cat’s health in their hands. If in doubt always ask to speak to a vet.
          Nothing can compare with a hands on consultation with a vet who might find something we missed, I think it’s well worth paying for that, as traumatic as it is going there!

  5. This post got me thinking…I am thrilled that I can now use an app on my phone and pay $40 to have a videoconference with an MD if I’m sick, who can also prescribe medication if required. This saves me MONEY and TIME! So why don’t vets do this?? I’ve found a few websites where you can submit a confidential question to a licensed vet and get answers for a fee, but NOBODY is taking it a step further to live video. Has anyone heard from a vet why this isn’t attractive to them?

    • Crystal, I wrote this article some time ago and looking back on it it does seem to be a good idea so I still believe in it but wonder why, as you say, veterinarians don’t take it up. There is quite a lot you could do over Skype. One of them greatest difficulties in taking a cat to a vet is the stress of it from both cat and caretaker and this sort of idea would help remove that stress.

  6. Wow, I hadn’t noticed Ruth AKA mention of my experience with Bigfoot until now. Thanks for bringing the post back to life. I have to say, in my recent experiences with a dying feral cat, my beautiful Yellowcat, I went to my vet with dozens of photos of her on my ipad. Some good close up shots. Yellow didn’t protest because she had suddenly gone blind. The vet was as helpful as she could be, and gave me some medication for the possibility of disease, not to cure the blindness of course, but a possible reason for the blindness. I told her I we able to pill Yellow with good success over the years. She went so far as to put the pills in her own mouth to see how bitter they were. And they were, she rinsed her mouth for a good long time after. Obviously, she was reaching far in her knowledge to help, but in the end really couldn’t but at least I felt better. I payed her for the consult, the same low price of a regular office visit holding a cat. Had it been a Skype appointment, she may have had more insight watching the cat move about. It’s a good idea, and in some cases could be helpful.

    I think, a vet who is a real healer gets intuitive hits that may often work better than hand on palpitation on a cat who is already stressed out from the trip to the vet.

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