No vet around? You can get one at click of a button
A few years ago Himanshu Gosrani’s pet dog got ill late into the night and died from Gastric Dilation (an acute life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with large amounts of air and then twists around) and bloat when he was abroad.
“The dog started to bloat in the middle of the night and I tried ringing several vets but no one picked up my distress call. By morning the dog had passed away,” he recalls.
Following that sad episode, he realised there is a huge gap in availability of veterinary care in Kenya, not only for pet owners but also farmers in remote regions of Kenya where the nearest vet can be hundreds of kilometres away.
Together with his son Dr Shyam Gosrani, they brainstormed on how to improve the health and welfare of animals in Kenya and make veterinary care accessible to more people.
Following the dog incident, they had developed an app to address that need, but due to lack of veterinary telemedicine regulations could not launch it in Kenya until early this year.
The start-up, AniVet Hub, which was launched earlier this year by the father-son duo provides on-demand video consultations between animal owners and Kenya Veterinary Board (KVB)-registered Veterinary Surgeons (Vets) anywhere in Kenya via a mobile application.
Shyam explains that the application which is available on Apple and Google Play Stores is accessible to anyone with a smartphone. It is free to download, with no subscription fees.
“It is user-friendly and simple to use for those who are not technology savvy, as it allows animal owners to search for vets according to name, distance, location, specialty and price. They can either video call them immediately by paying prior to the video call using M-Pesa or book an appointment for later,” he explains.
In January this year, the Kenya Veterinary Board published ‘Guidelines on delivery of tele-veterinary medicine’ and bestowed AniVet Hub with the first license as a Veterinary Telemedicine Service Provider.
The platform is now officially operational for the benefit animal owners who can now connect virtually with Vets, during these times of Covid-19 when physical meetings are discouraged.
A pool of professional vets
Shyam says AniVet Hub app allows any KVB-registered practicing Vet to subscribe to it and communicate with their clients via video through the app.
“Animal owners (including pet owners and farmers) can create a profile, search for vets according to distance, location, experience, specialty and price, and either immediately contact the vet via video for a consultation, or book an appointment for later.”
Further, animal owners can store their animal’s data securely on the app, whilst any post-consultation write-up by a vet on the app is also stored and downloadable by the client for future reference.
With pet ownership and demand for veterinary services rising, the AniVet Hub app will come in handy. Rather than waste time in rush hour traffic to physically see a vet, one can plug in online and link to the vet who will inform one if the challenge the animal is facing is an emergency.
For city dwellers where traffic is the order of the day, they can save time and money on travel, whilst also removing the risk of travel stress on their sick animal.
The cost of online consultation is approximately half the cost of a physical consultation. Pricings for vet services vary between Sh600-Sh5,000 according to experience, specialty and location of Vet.
veterinary surgeon at the click of a button
The services that the AniVet Hub app offers fall under what is termed as Veterinary telemedicine.
According to experts, veterinary telemedicine is not limited solely to the pet sector; there is huge scope for it to be used in the agricultural sector, where farmers in remote regions of Kenya can connect with a veterinary surgeon at the click of a button, as long as they have sufficient internet connectivity.
The technology not only saves the farmers money on travel costs for a vet but also optimises a vet’s time so they can help more animals in need.
The Veterinary Innovation Council in the United Kingdom found that only two out of 24 pet issues each year are addressed by veterinary expertise. That means 92 per cent of all pet issues go unaddressed by vets.
In Kenya, the developers hope that the AniVet app will help veterinary clinics remove barriers to animal accessing veterinary expertise, such that the veterinary clinic can compete with ‘Dr Google’, advice from various Facebook groups, or simply “hoping for the best” as the first response of a pet owner facing an issue.
Future is virtual
As competition increases across the veterinary profession, virtual care visits are another way to reinforce the bond and trust between a vet and client. Many vets in developed nations have found ways to incorporate virtual care into behavioural consults, hospice and palliative care, triage, feline care and more.
Others are using it for post-operative, dermatologic, or ophthalmologic recheck visits. Some clinics see growth potential for after-hours care — determining whether a patient needs to be seen as an emergency or if the problem can be handled during daytime hours.
For the health and well-being of vets, clients need to understand that their vet is not always accessible 24/7.
So far, there are approximately 250 Kenya Veterinary Board licensed vets who are using the application.
Using a telehealth platform such as AniVet Hub can help to better define these boundaries and has numerous opportunities.
Clients can be diverted from messaging the vet via text or social media and instead engage in a virtual visit. If the vet is not available, some platforms can further arrange for an urgent-visit request to be diverted to another colleague within the platform who can provide general advice, though not make a diagnosis or prescribe a treatment plan. Non-urgent requests can be handled when the vet is available.
Going forward, it is important that vet educate their team and clients about the transition to virtual care. Just as when a clinic offers any new service or product, everyone must learn how it works, how to use it and how to best explain it to clients.
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