Pet owners increasingly prefer and expect online access to their pet’s medical records and their veterinary team. Many veterinary practices are turning to pet parent apps to provide desired online veterinary access for their clients.
While apps are certainly beneficial, they can vary significantly in both quality and features. Therefore, it’s important to invest time in considering your needs and researching how different apps will meet those needs. Thinking carefully about how you want an app to function can help ensure that any app you utilize will meet your clients’ needs.
When evaluating any app for your hospital, consider whether the app offers the following features:
Your app should provide any hospital information that your clients may need to access. At a minimum, this should include your practice’s address, phone number, and a map to your practice.
You may also wish to include general practice information, such as doctor biographies, information on services you provide, and photos or virtual tours. Hospital forms can also be included in the app, to save time when clients drop off their pets.
Clients may find themselves accessing your app after-hours, when your practice is closed. Easy-to-locate emergency resources can be invaluable in a client’s time of need. Look for an app that allows you to provide contact information and maps for your local emergency clinic(s), along with easy access to the Pet Poison Helpline and/or ASPCA Poison Control.
While telephone calls will never become completely obsolete, many younger clients prefer to utilize text messaging. These clients view text messaging as a more efficient means of communication, allowing them to avoid lengthy hold times and other inconveniences.
Text messaging offers benefits for the veterinary team, too. A survey conducted by a veterinary app provider found that using an app to facilitate client communication can save practices as much as three hours of phone time per day. Instead of your receptionists placing calls on hold and bouncing between multiple lines, a messaging app allows receptionists to juggle simultaneous conversations with ease.
Medical record access
Engaged pet parents appreciate access to their pet’s medical records. Whether you provide them with unlimited access to your SOAP notes or a pared-down record featuring preventive care and vaccines, some degree of medical record access will enhance your app’s value to your clients.
Appointment scheduling calendars can reduce the time that your team spends on telephone calls, while also providing added convenience for your clients As long as you leave appointment slots blocked off for sick pets, emergency visits, and inpatient responsibilities, this can be a win-win arrangement for you and your clients.
Some veterinarians and practice managers fear giving up control of their schedule. Remember, you still control when appointments are available and you can always reschedule an appoint if necessary. In fact, many apps instruct client that their requested appointment is not official until it has been confirmed by the practice.
Telemedicine tools (if offered by your practice)
If your practice is one of many practices that now offer telemedicine services, consider using an app with integrated video-conferencing/telemedicine features. Having all of the necessary technology for a telemedicine visit available in one place can help reduce barriers to accessing veterinary care.
Medication refill requests
Many of us now request our own medication refills through a pharmacy app, and appreciate that we no longer have to spend time on hold on the telephone. A high-quality veterinary app can allow you to provide the same service to your clients.
All medication refills should be reviewed by a veterinary technician and/or a veterinarian. If appropriate, the medication can be refilled and the client can be notified that the medication is ready for pickup. If a request must be denied, you can respond to the client through the app or via phone to discuss appropriate recommendations for the pet.
When you provide telemedicine services or refill a patient’s medications, collecting payment can also occur through the app. In fact, some practices also use in-app payment options to reduce time that clients must spend waiting at the reception desk for check out. In-app payment options can be used in a variety of ways, with benefits to your practice and your clients.
Hospital and pet-related news updates
A “newsfeed” feature can help you distribute important information with your clients. Whether you’re adding a new associate veterinarian, preparing for a holiday closure, or wanting to alert clients of an infectious disease outbreak in your community, an app can help you share timely information with your clients.
A searchable database of client education materials can provide high-quality, accurate medical information for your clients, reducing the likelihood of them resorting to Dr. Google when they have medical questions.
As pet parent apps become increasingly available, it’s important to think carefully about which features will be most valuable to you, your practice, and your clients. By considering necessary or desired features, including features that you may want to incorporate someday in the future, you increase the likelihood of finding an app that will be a good long-term fit for your practice.