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Telemedicine Is Coming to the Vets, Part 12: Highlight on GuardianVets

Dog licks man's face while man sits in front of computer
Apr 9, 2021 at 5:15 pm
Carolyn Shadle

This is the twelfth in a series of telehealth articles to be published on the VetPartners blog. Each article in the series features 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 GuardianVets or any other telemedicine company. She received no compensation—monetary or otherwise—from VetPartners or GuardianVets for authoring this article.

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In 2017, John Dillon faced an issue with his dog, Patrick. He picked up the phone to call his veterinarian, and all he got was a voicemail telling him: “Leave a message, or go to the emergency room.”

Dillon thought it was an awful customer service experience. Later, he realized veterinary professionals were overworked and did not want to be on call 24/7.

Teletriage

This began Dillon’s commitment to the notion of what he refers to as “continuity of care” for the veterinary industry. He was aware that his vet, and many others, were burned out at the end of the day and couldn’t always be available after the practice closed. So, Dillon set out with his business partner, Katherine Donahue, DVM, to create a teletriage company known as GuardianVets.

When a veterinary hospital is closed, the traffic routes to the GuardianVets’ team of licensed veterinary professionals to answer the calls. After listening to the pet owner’s concern, the triage process begins. If it’s a real emergency, the caller will be directed immediately to the ER or the on-call doctor will be contacted. If it’s not an emergency, there will be an opportunity to schedule an appointment with the pet owner’s veterinarian for the next day.

Since its launch, GuardianVets has grown to partner with hundreds of veterinary hospitals across the country. The platform has been designated a preferred provider by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Then COVID-19 hit….

As we know, when COVID-19 hit, there was a mad dash for telemedicine. GuardianVets launched a curbside service to ensure a safe, satisfying, and contactless appointment experience. Upon arrival at the practice, a parking lot sign instructs pet owners to check in on the GuardianVets app. This triggers a notice to the veterinary team to fetch the pet from the car. The pet owners can then use the app to access the exam room in real time via video. Even payment is easy with the app. In combination with GuardianVets’ other virtual technologies, like asynchronous chat, curbside has helped practices maintain connection and safety with their clients and team members.

Small dog in car with owner

One pet owner from Schultz Veterinary Clinic in Meridian Charter Township, Michigan, said, “I was so glad that my clinic offered curbside, so I could talk to my vet during my dog’s exam.”

Practices were also dealing with their phones ringing off the hook, and John was ready to help with daytime phone support (“Overflow Support”). Overflow enables practices to pre-arrange the time they need support, whether it’s for a staff meeting, lunchtime, or the entire day.

“The mission of GuardianVets is to help veterinary practices connect better with their clients,” says Dillon. “By supplementing the physical relationship, they are keeping the practice and the veterinary team at the center of the relationship.”

Dillon has found that one of the biggest challenges of encouraging practices to adopt new technology has been supporting veterinary practices through “change management and capacity building.” New technology is only part of the solution. Being there with onboarding support and providing dedicated client success managers to help veterinary practices through every step of the implementation and provide ongoing support is critical to driving real value.

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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!

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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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