Smartphone apps can be valuable tools by which veterinary operations can help clients make appointments, find information, store a pet’s medical information, refill prescriptions, market themselves and more.
Peter Weinstein, DVM, executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, can envision many scenarios in which apps can help clinics increase their business, such as helping to bring the patients in for annual checkups, and offer clients convenience and more frequent medical care for their pets.
Imagine a client who is waiting in a doctor’s office with her child—the two-legged one—and she realizes she’s out of therapeutic food for her pet.
She grabs her phone and opens an app connected to her veterinarian and orders a 50-pound bag refill. As the client is placing the order, she notices a reminder that it’s nearly time for the pet’s annual exam. One or two taps of her finger and an appointment is made.
“As a smartphone user, I have apps on my phone for a variety of things and I do think that more people are doing searches on smartphones and tablets than desktops and laptops these days,” Dr. Weinstein said.
Apps to Measure
AliveCor’s veterinary heart monitor snaps onto an iPhone 4, 4S or 5 like a case and wirelessly communicates with the app on a smartphone.
The app provides online access to uploaded electrocardiograms. Veterinarians or technicians need to wet the use-area on the animal’s chest with alcohol, attach the reader and launch the app to obtain an ECG.
The app takes rhythm strips of any duration. An ECG can be set to record from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. It takes about 30 seconds to begin the reading, its makers say
“As soon as you tap the AliveECG Vet app the monitor is ready to record,” said Euan Thomson, president and CEO of AliveCor, which also makes a similar product for humans.
AliveCor reports selling more than 4,000 of the apps to both practitioners and consumers.
Chris Brandt, DVM, an information technology specialist in Computing and Technology Services at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, is encouraged by the number of apps coming out to help veterinarians more efficiently do their jobs.
“There are a number of useful calculation and drug-dosage apps in the Apple and Android app stores,” he said, mentioning for example VetPDA Calcs. He added that the VetPDA Calcs app is being revised for the for iOS7, including an iPad optimized version.
But Dr. Brandt advised caution when taking any vital measurements.
“Users should be very careful about dosing recommendations from these apps,” he added.
Danielle Lambert is the practice manager for Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital in Danielson, Conn.
The hospital, its veterinarians and its staff embrace apps for everything from marketing to communicating with clients and informing them about the dangers of diseases to looking up patient records and performing basic office tasks.
The Quinebaug staff uses an app called TurboScan to scan in medical histories on iPads and to take other steps to reduce the use of paper in the office, Lambert said.
“We’re about 75 percent paperless,” she said.
Another app the hospital uses is the Parasite Map from the Companion Animal Parasite Council. The app, which is available only for iOS, is an interactive map that shows the percentage of dogs and cats with positive parasite tests based on location in the US.
It’s particularly important for practices in tick and Lyme country, where Quinebaug is located.
“It shows tick-borne diseases, intestinal parasites,” Lambert said. “It’s a really useful tool when you’re trying to increase compliance on parasite prevention. You can pull up stats by county, by dog or cat, and here it’s very important, because you find Lyme disease in one in six dogs.”
Idexx VetConnect is another app the practice uses.
It enables doctors and technicians to view laboratory information on handheld devices at any time.
“It’s perfect for after hours and on weekends,” Lambert said. “They have access to all of our lab work that way.”
One of strongest benefits of apps seems to be for marketing—myriad apps in both the iTunes and the Google Play (Android) marketplaces can be used.
Lambert uses Facebook Pages Manager to schedule posts to publish in advance, or space pictures out so there’s always something fresh on the hospital’s Facebook page.
She also relies heavily on the Vet App for her social media needs, she said.
The Vet App includes a pet postcard feature that enables clients to take pictures of their pets and then insert them into a custom postcard branded with the clinic’s information.
Mary Shields, founder of the app’s maker, In-touch Mobile, likens the photo sharing feature to Instagram.
“Clients can share pictures on their social media and the picture is branded with the clinic’s contact information,” Shields said. “So clients are now marketing on behalf of their vet, spreading the work of their vet.”
The app is also a client communication tool with push notifications that come to users’ smartphone to remind them of something.
Shields said more than three-quarters of veterinary clients who use the app agree to receive push notifications—which can include reminders about appointments, alerts and other communiques.
SCVMA’s Weinstein sees great potential in the push notification to get clients to bring in pets for regular care.
“It acts to stimulate them, motivate them, cajole them and beg them to follow up on needed care for their pets,” Weinstein said. “It gives the consumer a way to access the practice and take care of the needs they have for their pets, and it gives the practice another means to contact the consumers through something that is umbilically attached to them 24-7, 365—AKA their smartphone.”
The Vet App also enables clients to request prescription refills, check on clinic hours, get emergency instructions and find links to a clinic’s website.
“It’s the wave of the future,” Shields said. “We’re accessing our world from our handset or tablet, and an app is the best way to get there.”
The Compendium of Veterinary Products app, which is owned by North American Compendium in Toronto, Canada, is another app that many practices are embracing.
Bayer HealthCare Animal Health has been the longtime sole sponsor of the app.
“The CVP app provides a user-friendly resource for pharmaceuticals, vaccines, diagnostics, supplements and medicated feeds used by U.S. veterinarians,” said Dan Carey, DVM, with Veterinary Technical Services for Bayer. “Although the same information is available in the hard-copy Compendium, the app fits in my pocket and is always with me.”
The app is available on iOS and Android.
Bayer reports that in the U.S., the app each year has more than 800,000 user sessions that result in more than 2.4 million page views.
Some apps are about silliness and games—but in the veterinary world that may be a nice departure from all of the seriousness and medicine, Quinebaug’s Lambert noted.
Pose A Pet is an app Lambert uses to capture pictures of happy or well-cared-for patients to be shared later.
The free app makes noises, such a squeaky toy noise, when the user is taking a picture of patient.
“This app is hilarious,” she said. “We’re really, really big in social media.”
20 Medical- and Business-related Apps
- Abbott Animal Health I.V. Fluid Volume Calculator: This app helps veterinarians and technicians derive the calculation of the total volume of crystalloid fluids that should be administered to dogs and cats going under fluid therapy. iOS and Android. Free.
- A Vet Tool: Can be used by veterinarians, technicians or pet owners interested in the drugs and tests used at a veterinary clinic. iOS and Android. $6.99.
- Certified Veterinary Assistant: A study guide that helps prepare veterinary assistants and technicians for their careers. It includes more than 1,250 multiple choice quiz questions. iOS and Android. $2.89.
- Compendium of Veterinary Products: A resource for pharmaceuticals, vaccines, diagnostics, supplements and medicated feeds used by U.S. veterinarians. iOS and Android. Free.
- Dog Anatomy: Canine 3D: A visual reference with more than 300 anatomical structures. Labels detail structures with audio pronunciations and text descriptions. iOS and Android. $4.99.
- DVM Calc: A small animal veterinary calculator. The app contains 26 practical calculators, 15 specific constant rate infusion calculators and 10 toxicity calculators. iOS. $4.99.
- Equine Drugs: Covers 659 separate dose regimens for 419 different drugs; its makers say it is a complete reference for any veterinarian treating horses. iOS and Android. $27.99
- Exotic Pet Vet: Designed to help veterinary practitioners, veterinary students and technicians deal with exotic species. It covers husbandry, nutrition, handling, common diseases, treatments and formularies. Android. $1.99.
- Idexx VetConnect Plus: Doctors and technicians get alerted whenever a patient’s diagnostic results are ready. iOS. Free.
- Infinity Lab Retriever: Enables veterinarians and technicians to check lab results on the run. Results can be searched by patient, client or date range. The app loads the titles of the tests performed and displays results. iOS and Android. Free.
- Merck Veterinary Manual: A comprehensive resource for veterinary professionals and students. It offers guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of animal disorders and diseases and more than 1,100 full-color images. iOS and Android. $49.99.
- Parasite Map: This app from the Companion Animal Parasite Council shows the percentage of dogs and cats with positive parasite tests by state and by county. iOS. Free.
- Pose A Pet: This pet camera app employs animal-attracting noises to help capture better pet photos. Offers 20 sounds, including meows and squeaks, and photo sharing on Facebook and Twitter. iOS and Android. Free.
- TARGET (Vet): A veterinary antimicrobial reference guide to effective treatment that can be used when treating microbial infections in small animals. It ranks the efficacy of 24 antimicrobials against 13 of the most common pathogens. iOS and Android. Free.
- TurboScan: This app turns your smartphones into a scanner. It can scan and store or email documents as PDFs for JPEG files. iOS and Android. $2.99.
- The Vet App: The app provides functionalities like tap to call and tap for directions, hours, coupons, booking appointments, ordering medications and posting pictures to Facebook. iOS and Android. Free.
- Vet Blood Tests Guide: A reference for values and differential diagnosis for blood tests used for small animal veterinary realm. iOS and Android. $9.99.
- Vet Calculator Plus: Designed for veterinarians and veterinary students, nurses and technicians, the app provides a quick and easy way to do calculations. It offers 29 calculators. iOS and Android. $2.99.
- Veterinary AliveECG: The app, to be used with the AliveCor Veterinary Heart Monitor ($199), enables veterinarians, veterinary technicians and consumers to instantly receive ECGs results. iOS. Free.
- VetPDA Calcs: 22 calculators for veterinary medicine students and professionals. iOS. $4.99.
Note: This list is a small sampling of apps related to the veterinary field. Some apps listed may also be available for Blackberrys and other devices.