Veterinarians are reluctant to recommend virtual consultations to a fellow veterinarian

Debbie Sigesmund Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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 DVM, MSc
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Jason B. Coe Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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 DVM, PhD
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Deep Khosa Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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 BVMS, MANZCVS, PhD
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Irene C. Moore Ridgetown Campus, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

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 DVM, MSc

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To explore veterinarians’ use of virtual veterinarian-client-patient consultations before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and examine veterinarians’ attitudes toward virtual consultations.

SAMPLE

135 companion animal veterinarians in Canada, the US, and Europe.

METHODS

An anonymous online survey was distributed to gather participating veterinarians’ use of information and communication technologies and their perception of virtual consultations’ effect on patient care, client communication, and their own well-being. Willingness to recommend virtual consultations was evaluated using the Net Promoter Score. Multivariable logistic regression explored factors associated with willingness to recommend virtual consultations.

RESULTS

Percentage of participating veterinarians using the telephone and videoconferencing increased significantly (P < .001) from before (83.6% and 3.0%, respectively) to during the COVID-19 pandemic (97.0% and 22.4%, respectively). Participants were significantly less confident (P < .001) about their ability to reach a diagnosis using a virtual consultation as compared to a hands-on patient examination. Participants perceived client communication to be more challenging during virtual as compared to face-to-face consultations, particularly for building rapport and expressing empathy. Participants were extremely unwilling to recommend virtual consultations (Net Promoter Score = –41.4) with 21.6% (24/111) promoters and 63.1% (70/111) detractors. Confidence doing a virtual patient examination and comfort using videoconferencing technology were both positively associated (P < .05) with willingness to recommend virtual consultations.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Veterinary practices and organizations interested in encouraging virtual veterinarian-client-patient consultations likely need to prioritize veterinarians’ acceptance as an initial focus. The veterinary profession would benefit from further research and education to inform virtual veterinary care.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To explore veterinarians’ use of virtual veterinarian-client-patient consultations before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and examine veterinarians’ attitudes toward virtual consultations.

SAMPLE

135 companion animal veterinarians in Canada, the US, and Europe.

METHODS

An anonymous online survey was distributed to gather participating veterinarians’ use of information and communication technologies and their perception of virtual consultations’ effect on patient care, client communication, and their own well-being. Willingness to recommend virtual consultations was evaluated using the Net Promoter Score. Multivariable logistic regression explored factors associated with willingness to recommend virtual consultations.

RESULTS

Percentage of participating veterinarians using the telephone and videoconferencing increased significantly (P < .001) from before (83.6% and 3.0%, respectively) to during the COVID-19 pandemic (97.0% and 22.4%, respectively). Participants were significantly less confident (P < .001) about their ability to reach a diagnosis using a virtual consultation as compared to a hands-on patient examination. Participants perceived client communication to be more challenging during virtual as compared to face-to-face consultations, particularly for building rapport and expressing empathy. Participants were extremely unwilling to recommend virtual consultations (Net Promoter Score = –41.4) with 21.6% (24/111) promoters and 63.1% (70/111) detractors. Confidence doing a virtual patient examination and comfort using videoconferencing technology were both positively associated (P < .05) with willingness to recommend virtual consultations.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Veterinary practices and organizations interested in encouraging virtual veterinarian-client-patient consultations likely need to prioritize veterinarians’ acceptance as an initial focus. The veterinary profession would benefit from further research and education to inform virtual veterinary care.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Material S1 (PDF 308 KB)
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