Dr Nuala Summerfield
BSc BVM&S DipACVIM (Cardiology) DipECVIM CA(Cardiology) MRCVS
RCVS, American and European Specialist in Veterinary Cardiology
First opinion vets face the challenge of maintaining an enormous breadth of knowledge and skills across all areas, whilst trying to develop specific areas of expertise such as ultrasound competence, all within the time constraints of a busy practice.
Added to this, as the demand for specialised veterinary medicine continues to increase, so do the number and accuracy of diagnostic tests and sophisticated treatment options available. It’s hard to keep up!
The decision as to which cases could be managed in house and which ones would benefit from referral to a specialist is not always straightforward. A number of factors influence this decision including availability of in-house equipment and expertise, owner financial considerations and willingness to travel.
This tends to lead to one of the following three outcomes:
1. Offer only what you can do in practice.
Pros – you have full control over the care and billing.
Cons – you may be limited with what you can offer your client in-house. You may have the equipment but may lack the confidence or experience to use the equipment to its full potential. You may be tempted to step outside your capabilities or comfort zone in a specific area, potentially with the associated anxiety of making an incomplete or incorrect diagnosis, or not offering the latest standard of care.
2. Refer the patient to a specialist referral centre.
Pros – your patient and your client get the best possible care and treatment by highly qualified specialists.
Cons – although the risk of a referral practice poaching your clients is very small, it does worry a lot of smaller GP practices. However, the bigger issue is that the billing and aftercare are out of your control and you stand to lose what can be a valuable revenue stream from follow-up appointments and medications.
In addition, many clients are unable or unwilling to travel, and may (quite unreasonably) see having to do so as a reflection on your practice.
Referral centres are also frequently very expensive (they have overheads too!), and this has been a major factor in “veterinary fee inflation” in the last few years.
3. Bring in a visiting specialist referral vet.
Pros – in many ways, you, your patients and your clients get the best of both worlds – a specialist in the practice. You keep control over the patient and client experience and have a fair say in the division of revenues.
Cons – however, it won’t be worth the visiting specialist’s time unless you have enough cases for them to see. Likewise, they won’t be with you all the time – they’ll have to visit other practices, so there could be a gap in care if they aren’t around when a complication develops, or a client has to rebook an appointment at the last minute.
So, clearly none of these solutions is perfect! However, there is now another way…
Virtual Veterinary Specialists
We understand that many first opinion vets would like to work up their own cases to a higher level in-house, but perhaps lack the confidence or experience to do so.
So wouldn’t it be great to be able to access specialist advice and guidance for your patients, whenever you need it, at the touch of a button?
Wouldn’t you like to have a specialist on hand to ‘look over your shoulder’ whilst you do an ultrasound, or to discuss some complicated blood results or radiographs with?
Virtual Veterinary Specialists (VVS) is a simple and convenient way for you to easily and efficiently access specialist advice for your patients without leaving your practice, thus accelerating clinical decisions and improving your patient outcomes. All of our highly qualified specialists are Diploma holders, so you can be confident in their level of expertise.
The VVS platform uses patented technology to enable you to easily share unlimited cameras and other diagnostic information in real-time during a virtual face-to-face consultation. The specialist can hear what you hear when you auscultate your patient, they can see the live images from your ultrasound machine, they can offer you practical guidance to improve your scanning technique – and so much more!
– Increased use of your own practice infrastructure and equipment.
– Increased depth and breadth of service offered to your own clients by using virtual referral services to enhance in-house expertise and capabilities.
– Retained revenue by doing case work-ups in-house with the help of a VVS Specialist.
– Continuous learning opportunities, as you learn whilst working-up your own cases.
– Increased convenience for your clients and happier pets, which can remain in the familiar surroundings of your practice.
– The VVS platform also gives you access to in-house bespoke CPD, tailored specifically to your practice’s needs, budget and convenience.
– You need to have a good internet connection and to sign up to the VVS service… and yep, that’s about it!