To explore pet owners’ use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) during virtual veterinarian-client-patient consultations and to examine pet owners’ attitudes toward virtual consultations.
714 pet owners.
In an anonymous online survey distributed using snowball sampling, all participants were asked about utilization of ICTs, preferred method of interaction (face-to-face and 5 ICTs), opinion on virtual communication, and demographics. Sentiment toward virtual veterinarian consultations was measured for participants who had experienced a “virtual only” or “combination virtual and face-to-face” consultation in the previous 6 months using the Net Promoter Score. For these participants, multivariable logistic regression was used to explore factors associated with recommending virtual consultations.
92% (583/632) of participants resided in Ontario, Canada. Most (85.6% [611/714]) participants had experience using the telephone for veterinary care, while only 5.2% (37/714) had used live videoconferencing. Participants ranked face-to-face interactions as most preferred (P < .001), followed by telephone and then live videoconferencing. Participants were significantly (P < .001) less confident communicating during virtual consultations, particularly for building rapport. For participants experiencing a virtual consultation in the previous 6 months (n = 348), the overall Net Promoter Score was neutral at –1.43. Participants were divided about recommending virtual consultations, with 33.3% (116/348) being promoters and 34.8% (121/348) being detractors. Age of participant and comfort using videoconferencing were positively associated (P < .05) with recommending virtual consultations.
Although participating pet owners significantly preferred face-to-face consultations with veterinarians, many appear willing to consider virtual consultations. Further exploration of pet owners’ preferences and concerns around virtual care, including communication, is needed.
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.
135 companion animal veterinarians in Canada, the US, and Europe.
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.
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.
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.