Blog

Telemedicine is Coming to the Vets, Part 8: Highlight on TeleTails

Asian woman with dog on computer
Nov 20, 2020 at 6:17 pm
Carolyn Shadle

This is the eighth 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 TeleTails or any other telemedicine company. She received no compensation—monetary or otherwise—from VetPartners or TeleTails for authoring this article.

______________________________________________________

VetPartners member Clay Bartlett co-founded TeleTails in 2018 as a result of the best kind of serendipity. More than 2 years before that, Dr. Hilary Jones, who was working as an associate veterinarian in New York, met Bartlett at a dog park. She learned that Bartlett, as a business school student, was having trouble finding time to take his dog Rosie to the vet. He wanted to talk to his vet who knew Rosie, but, he said, the practice was closed when he was available.

“Care unfortunately stopped at the wall of the clinic,” he said. Jones knew what he meant and saw that his concern meshed completely with the frustration that she had been experiencing trying to connect with her clinic clients and managing those “quick questions,” namely emails, calls, and even the occasional client text, throughout the day.

Voila! An idea was born. Having worked in technology before business school, Clay had ideas and connections, and he brought in Varun Karki as chief technology officer to help. It just so happened that Karki, an engineer with experience in software development, was looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity and got right to work co-creating what became TeleTails.

A veterinary service extending care beyond the clinic

At the heart of this platform is the opportunity to enable pet parents to maintain their relationship with their existing veterinary clinic. According to Jones, who co-founded TeleTails, “We built our technology to drive additional and scalable services to either virtual touch-points or in-person interactions. We focus on how we can help practices offer digital consults and curbside care and integrate these services into their existing workflows with as little friction as possible.”

With TeleTails, support staff can schedule and manage consultations. They enable the practice to get paid appropriately for a vet’s time by transitioning unpaid phone calls into monetized digital appointments. The result is improved quality of life for teammates by setting manageable boundaries and expectations with clients.

TeleTails allows practices to set customizable prices. The platform reassures users that payment is collected automatically and securely, using a payment processor certified to PCI Service Provider Level 1 (which is the most stringent level of certification available in the payments industry).

Responding to COVID

TeleTails, which launched before COVID-19, found that demand exploded more than 10-fold almost overnight when the pandemic hit. Since that period, TeleTails has also launched a completely free curbside care tool for practices that have faced limited in-person interactions.

When it was realized that practices were struggling to maintain operations while keeping staff safe, Bartlett and his team immediately created a new tool called TeleTails Instant. This can be used on top of the practice’s core platform. It allows veterinarians and technicians to take a history while limiting contact, or to keep patients up-to-date on a consult via a link that is generated from just a client’s cell number.

Getting started with TeleTails Instant is quick and easy. Practices will find an Instant button on the TeleTails website, through which they can, at no cost, sign up to offer curbside video consultations.

A clinic simply adds a client’s phone number, and a URL link to a live video session is immediately sent. All consults are archived, too, so it is a helpful way to free up phone lines and keep staff safe by reducing the back-and-forth to a client’s car. Clients benefit from the personal touch of seeing someone face-to-face, including staying informed as an examination progresses.

An extension, not replacement, of the local practice

TeleTails practices have reported that revenue has improved since signing on. One user found that 80% of the virtual consultations return for an in-house visit within two weeks. Others report that they can channel their online clients to their prescription service, keeping them in their ecosystem. One study even found that virtual clients spend 25% more on ancillary products and services through their veterinarian! Other practices have found that an initial virtual consultation has reactivated a relationship with their “nearly lost” client.

Dog and owner on telemedicine call with veterinarian

Dr. Michelle Forbes, of Compassionate Care Animal Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told me that she adopted TeleTails when one of her teammates went to a conference in New York and brought back the information.

According to Forbes, the timing was perfect. Always willing to respond to clients’ queries 24/7, Forbes said it was “the last straw” when she got a call at 3 a.m. on a Sunday asking about the best diet for the pet parent’s cat. She knew that she needed to be able to charge for her services, and this might be the tool to help her structure her work. So, she reached out to Bartlett. “The customer service was incredible,” she said. Bartlett immediately responded to her inquiry, and she was signed up in no time.

Forbes finds that by clients using the platform and paying for her consultation, the service is more meaningful, and compliance improves. The platform also provides a structure for her to use to provide follow-up, and to receive appropriate compensation. She is so glad that she got onboard before the pandemic forced so many changes, but she acknowledges that the platform will be useful as an ongoing service in many ways. She mentioned four benefits:

  1. Wellness exams. Currently, she can split the exam between half at curbside through TeleTails, and the other half in the clinic.
  2. After-hours questions, including everything from a bee sting and what to do regarding something more serious that warrants a consultation and/or advice to seek emergency care.
  3. Follow up. She finds that these rechecks lead to better compliance, which leads to healthier pets.
  4. Clients who cannot get into the clinic and/or have high-anxiety pets that are reluctant to come.

A service for pet owners

One pet owner, Kelsey Banos of New York City, a client of Heart of Chelsea, told me that she has an adorable, but anxious, dog named Bear. Banos appears to be a perfect example of that fourth benefit Forbes described. She often has questions about Bear—usually regarding behavioral and anxiety issues—but she can’t fit in time to get to the hospital. So, Banos schedules a virtual visit and can chat face-to-face, which enables her vet to see how Bear acts in her apartment when the dog is anxious—something she’d have difficulty explaining in the clinic.

For pet owners, this service is also a great time saver.  Consider an onsite visit: drive to the practice, find a place to park, check-in, and sit in the waiting room—sometimes with an anxious pet. Once called, pet owners usually have a 15-minute appointment, starting with a visit with the technician, leaving a few minutes with the veterinarian. TeleTails finds that the average length of a digital consultation is 8 minutes.

There are two important aspects that TeleTails provides pet owners that should be mentioned:

  1. When first connecting to their veterinarian on TeleTails, pet owners need only type in the name of their veterinarian, and they will automatically be connected with them virtually. The benefit to veterinarians is that clients don’t scroll through a list of competitors to access the practice. All connections are one-on-one and personal, so the client has a streamlined experience, and the clinic does not have any risk of losing clients.
  2. When logging into TeleTails, pet owners are asked two triage questions, screening out emergency concerns. If they respond with a “yes” to either of the questions, they will not be allowed to start a telemedicine consultation, but will instead be advised to see their veterinarian or emergency service right away.

TeleTails appears to have all the issues covered.

______________________________________________________

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!

The following two tabs change content below.
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.

Speak Your Mind

*