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Telemedicine is Coming to the Vets, Part 4: Highlight on Petriage

pet owner on video consult
Jun 19, 2020 at 5:08 pm
Carolyn Shadle

This is the fourth in a series of telehealth articles to be published on the VetPartners blog. Each article in the series will feature a different veterinary telemedicine option, providing valuable insight for veterinary professionals, consultants, and pet owners. Communications professional and freelance journalist Carolyn Shadle is not associated with Petriage or any other telemedicine company. She received no compensation—monetary or otherwise—from VetPartners or Petriage for authoring this article. 

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During this pandemic, more veterinary practices are turning to telehealth. I spoke to several of my VetPartners colleagues to learn more about their various companies. One of those colleagues was Mark Stephenson, DVM, chief veterinary officer of LifeLearn. He told me about Petriage, a product that LifeLearn distributes to enhance its services.

Artificial intelligence

What makes Petriage unique is that it uses artificial intelligence (AI), meaning that it uses computers to simulate human intelligence. AI typically includes natural language processing and speech recognition.

I was curious about how this product came about, so Mark put me in touch with Petriage co-founder and CEO, Allon Freiman. Through Freiman, I learned that the birth of Petriage, which occurred about five years ago, was the result of a concern voiced by Casey Olives, a family friend with a PhD in biostatistics from Harvard. It seems that one Friday evening, Casey’s 2-year-old Labrador suffered what seemed to be a mild seizure. Since his veterinarian, Dr. Shlomo Frieman, was also a personal friend, he reached out to him after hours. Dr. Frieman interviewed Olives and concluded that the episode wasn’t as serious as feared. He advised Olives to skip the ER and bring his dog to the vet the next morning. Not only was Olives relieved, but he also saved the cost of an emergency animal hospital visit.

That experience drove Olives, Dr. Frieman, and Allon Frieman to develop the Petriage app, and found the company.

How does it work?

As a data scientist, Olives understood AI, and with Dr. Frieman’s knowledge of veterinary medicine, they were able to create a remote triage system that analyzes common symptoms to determine a sick pet’s level of urgency.

After a 90-second survey, the pet owner receives one of five possible conclusions:

  1. This is an emergency that requires immediate attention.
  2. This is a condition which needs attention, but you can wait to see your veterinarian in the next day.
  3. This is a common ailment and can be addressed by…
  4. This is an issue that will take care of itself, so don’t worry.
  5. More information is needed; please contact your vet for further analysis.

Petriage is “thinking” like the veterinarian, reviewing the myriad complaints. What is more, because there is a machine learning component, Petriage is continuing to “learn” and will have richer and richer data to draw upon with each additional app use.

pet owner and dog during video veterinary appointment

Brick and click

Dr. Frieman said that in addition to the product enabling him to engage with his clients after hours, he also found that Petriage provides a way to expand the reach of the veterinary clinic into the living room of the pet owner. He likes to call this “brick and click,” noting that the clinic will always be necessary, but online advice makes him available at a time and place convenient to his clients.

Full circle of care

Mark pointed out that there are three processes that enable the veterinary practice to serve their pet owners through the use of Petriage:

  1. The AI-based interview brings peace of mind to the pet owner when used after hours. When the client comes into the clinic during the day, the interview is used as an intake form, providing valuable information right up front. Ultimately, of course, when the veterinarian sees the pet, she will determine the accuracy of the teletriage recommendation (which research says is 95 percent of the time).
  2. Petriage enables an e-consultation, including online text, images, videos, or a full video conference session.  What’s more, all of the information is captured in the client’s electronic record.
  3. This platform enables a post-hospitalization monitoring process, so the veterinarian can stay in touch with the client and pet at home—again, using text, images, and videos.

It’s easy

Pet owner Erica Becker said that she found it much easier to communicate with her vet using Petriage. She recalled using Petriage to connect with her vet about her small dog’s gastrointestinal problems.

“It was simple,” she said. “I just logged in and described my dog’s symptoms.” An alert went to the veterinarian, and she immediately got back a query about how the dog’s gums looked. She was then asked to snap a photo and upload it. She liked the fact that, in addition to being guided through a series of questions, she was able to type her own message.

That sums it up! Easy to use, with sophisticated technology bringing client and veterinarian full circle.

Vets who are interested in getting their practices on the Petriage platform can learn more by visiting the LifeLearn website and booking a demo.

 

VetPartners plans to publish one article of this series per month. The author has featured, or will feature, the following telehealth companies:

Are you a veterinary telemedicine company not listed above? Contact the author for a chance to be included in the series!

 

Like this blog post? Interested in other ways VetPartners can help keep you informed of the latest and greatest innovations in veterinary medicine? Check out our practice management resources.

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Carolyn Shadle
Carolyn C. Shadle, PhD, is the director of Interpersonal Communication Services, Inc., which assists individuals and organizations in improving their interpersonal relations. Those in the veterinary profession know her as the co-author of "Communication Case Studies: Building Interpersonal Skills in the Veterinary Practice," published by the American Animal Hospital Association, and by her presentations at regional and national veterinary conferences. She holds a PhD in organizational and interpersonal communication.

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