I am a small animal vet working on the other side of the world in New Zealand. I graduated from Bristol in 2006 and after three years in mixed practice set off on a world tour that ended up stopping in NZ, where I have been ever since apart from a two-year stint in a busy companion practice on England’s south coast.
I have always been passionate about trying to educate my clients as fully as possible, and it doesn’t take much time on the internet to come across some really harmful pet health information, advice, and recommendations. With the idea behind ourpetshealth.com having been bubbling away in the background for a number of years, I finally launched the website, YouTube channel and podcast in November 2017. Our Pets Health provides complete veterinary healthcare advice via creative and innovative series of videos and podcasts explaining and answering questions on how you can support your cat and dog to allow them to live healthier, happier lives.
What are you most proud of, and why?
Taking action! How many of us have had an idea and a strong desire to start some kind of project only for it to be filed away for another day when life wasn’t quite so busy (which never comes)?
The veterinary degree equips us with the ability to efficiently search out, consume and process a large amount of information. Life in practice then forces us to think outside the box and come up with solutions to a multitude of problems, due to the limitations of money, funds, expectations or expertise. I think this background is vital when it comes to embracing the challenges and opportunities of providing for the healthcare needs of pets from all demographics, in all corners of the globe.
I’m also proud to be part of such an amazing profession. The support and feedback I’ve received has personally made a huge difference, and I hope also demonstrates a recognition that there is a need for vets to engage with the wider pet-owning public to improve education.
How do you think that change in other industries will drive change in the veterinary profession?
I think the potential for significant disruption to the current veterinary service model is huge. From the software business, that has very much switched from a retail to subscription model, to the human health service, where video consultations are being introduced which allow diagnosis and treatments to be made without a patient having to physically visit the doctor.
Of course, not all developments in other industries can easily be applied to the veterinary profession. It is important, however, in my opinion, to pay close attention to all the different types of services our clients are accessing. The veterinary profession is as much a service industry as it is part of the health industry. While we must always put the needs of our patients first, if the profession is not able to adapt to client needs then there is a real risk a large proportion of the pet-owning public will simply stop engaging with vets for all but the most serious conditions. Instead, they could turn to alternative forms of health advice and treatment, to the detriment of their pet’s health.
Telemedicine is already making inroads in the profession and, despite reasonable objections regarding the appropriateness of this for all cases, it is something that I believe will continue to develop very rapidly. In the not too distant future, I would not be surprised if telemedicine in some form becomes the first point of contact that most clients and patients have with a veterinarian.
What innovation has the greatest opportunity to change the health and welfare of animals?
Increasing use and development of remote communication technologies (be that video, augmented reality or virtual reality), combined with the development of wearable or implantable technology, has the potential to impact the global pet population as a whole. Not only will it give more people than ever before access to quality veterinary services, but these developments will also allow us to detect all manner of diseases at a much earlier stage.
Early detection and intervention will allow us to offer improved, tailored care to our current patient base. It will also allow us to provide improved preventative health advice to people with no access to veterinary services, as well as “triage” patients whose owners would not otherwise engage with the traditional veterinary model until absolutely necessary.
How could vets better meet the needs of today’s clients and patients?
I think there needs to be a wider recognition of where our clients are seeking answers to their pet health questions. Everything from what food to feed and which parasite control to use, through to how they should be treating their cat’s kidney failure or dog’s arthritis. Even our most engaged clients are doing this.
While a pet owner who has already made the trip into the consult room has made an investment into building a relationship with you, it is still up to us to cement this by being the number one source of information. We also need to recognise that we are no longer the individual gatekeepers of this information. While vets are the only people who can diagnose and prescribe, all of the information surrounding any diagnosis and treatment, as well as that concerning preventative health, is in the public domain.
We should not be scared of this. If a client is given reliable, accurate information from an external source that fits the practice ethos, then they will have improved understanding as to why recommendations were made and compliance should be greatly improved. It will also reinforce the idea that we as vets, rather than internet forums, are the number one experts to consult and trust with the care of their pet.
This does not mean that all veterinary practices need to reinvent the wheel. If a clinic does not have the resources to produce their own content (likely due to a lack of time), then they should consider having a list of other resources for every common condition seen or preventative health recommendation made. There are plenty of valuable resources out there, they just don’t often make the first page of a Google search. Rather than simply being the source, we should also see one of our roles as the expert curators of information.
What can we look forward to next from Our Pets Health?
This year is certainly set up to be just as busy as the last. I launched a new podcast at the end of February. Podcasting is a medium that I have grown to really enjoy both producing and consuming. I believe it offers a much more intimate way to communicate compared to video or blog posts and is definitely something that practices could consider diving into.
I also have a number of collaborations lined up with a couple of other online veterinary creators. I hope that by combining forces we will be able to bring the message of evidence-based medicine to a wider audience. I am also working on a project to produce some client resources for practices to allow them to better engage their clients in the limited time that is generally available.