What are you waiting for?
TVs showing cartoons for the kiddies or educational videos for clients are no longer the standard fare in veterinary waiting rooms.
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Today, online and digital signage can transform a waiting room into a profit center and offer customized promotions for nutrition, surgical options, dental procedures and other modalities offered at the practice.
While some veterinarians use their waiting room television systems for education or entertainment alone, vendors say any captive audience allows for enhanced client communication.
“It used to be that vets would just buy a TV and play a video or cable [stations],” says David Titchenal, principal and vice president of operations at emebaVet LLC of Modesto, Calif., which operates a nationwide network of information systems for veterinary clients.
“[Traditional programming] helps pass the time but does nothing to promote veterinary medicine, educate or discuss practice offerings,” Titchenal says.
Have It Your Way
Veterinarians can order customized programming such as doctor and staff profiles, clinic news and timely information such as national dental month. Local weather, fun facts and pet stories are other popular options.
“EmebaVet case studies show that a digital signage and captive audience system’s ability to engage clients at point of sale greatly reduces staff and veterinarians’ need to act as salespeople,” Titchenal says.
EmebaVet is in about 94 hospitals in 32 states and has a goal of 2,000 hospitals.
Customization costs more than the basic news feed, but it depends on the vendor.
Networks catering to the veterinary community say it’s all about the content. To get the best return on investment, representatives say, everything needs to be considered when selecting the information to be broadcast, including the commercials.
“Each veterinary office has its own IP address,” says Philip Cohen, president and CEO of PetCare TV, a Tampa-based network. “This allows veterinarians to eliminate content they don’t want aired at their practice. By offering high-definition video segments, viewers’ attention is diverted, getting their mind off of why they’re at the doctor’s office.
“But it’s important to choose programming wisely.”
Broadband vs. Cable
Cohen says he started PetCare TV in 1984, when he sold 19-inch TVs with VHS players running a series of 30 videos. As the technology evolved, the company switched to DVDs, then altered its business model to include a free television and DVDs to subscribers. Now, the company’s 4,000 subscribers are gradually moving to broadband delivery.
“Even with broadband, the DVDs are available,” Cohen says. “A link from the practice website to our site is free, so clients can go home, go to the practice website, and then link to ours to read more about a specific medical issue their pet is facing. Our broadband is free, but the quarterly-released DVDs are $369 per year.”
Some networks offer free DVDs that can be sent home with the client. The subjects include how-to scenarios as well as new and senior pet issues.
“This year we will be offering subscribers an opportunity to create a video blog on a topic they want to discuss with clients, and then e-mail it to us for editing and linkage to their waiting room TV,” Cohen says.
VetVid, created by Trent Noller, Mary Pipes and Mike Ontiveros, DVM, distributes online and digital signage on four networks. The Brea, Calif., company produces educational video content aimed at the consumer. The company is funded through advertising sponsorship, which is included in the videos.
Dr. Ontiveros hosts VetVid’s more than 30 circulating videos. The Capistrano Beach, Calif., veterinarian goes by “Dr. Mike.”
“We support veterinarians by educating the consumer through a discussion of veterinary offerings,” Noller says. “We are working on syndication and a new line of breed-specific videos that discuss health, nutritional requirements and other breed needs.”
Some 500 veterinary practices air VetVid videos, and the company expects that number to grow by 50 a month.
AVTV Networks Inc. of Hackensack, N.J., helps veterinarians market supplemental medical treatments and services to waiting patients. The company offers the Healium waiting room network powered by CBS.
“The shows we broadcast are designed to make clients relax while waiting,” says Yigal M. Marcus, CEO and founder of AVTV. “Veterinarians can customize the channel by including information about products they sell.
“We offer 30 hours worth of content so clients don’t have to watch the same message over and over again.”
AVTV is distributed through Henry Schein Inc. and carries a basic subscription fee of $59 a month. Other services cost extra.
“Veterinarians can produce a commercial, then send it to us through e-mail and we can include that in their practice’s broadcast,” Marcus says. “The commercial is included in the basic fee, but inclusion of a practice logo or a voiceover would be an additional cost.”
Veterinarians can purchase the equipment themselves or have the network handle everything. The company serves the continental U.S. and plans to add Hawaii and Alaska this year. New channels will be unveiled this year as well, Marcus says.
“It’s a powerful feature to be able to customize content a practice runs for clients,” Marcus says.
Another service, Veterinary News Network (VNN), airs news reported by veterinarians on several TV systems. The company has produced hundreds of videos since its start in 2005. The news is regionally specific and can even discuss happenings at specific practices.
“Anyone can join VNN for free,” says James Humphries, DVM, president and news director for VNN, based in Falcon, Colo. “We currently have 400 members and we continue to grow.
“A recent inclusion for members is the ability for veterinarians to ad-lib a video report, then send it to VNN. We edit the content and package it for production on their practice website or a social networking post.”
Anyone can log onto the company’s website and watch stories VNN has produced for network use. The company says more than 30,000 viewers visit the site daily.
To further promote veterinarians as reporters, Dr. Humphries became the instrumental force this year behind the creation of the American Society of Veterinary Journalism. The society aims to improve the quality of veterinary medical information delivered in the public media.
“The society was formed to provide certification of veterinary contributors to public media as well as lend credibility and confidence to producers and editors of media programs and publications,” he says. “Veterinarians who certified through the society will have a seal of approval. Applicants will have to take an exam and will be considered board-certified if they pass.”
This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Click here to become a subscriber.