What happens in Vegas . . . needs to come home with you! That is, if you attended the 2024 Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) and learned about all the innovations happening in the Veterinary industry! Attendees at this year’s conference had plenty of opportunities to see what they could take home to improve patient care, client experience, and business operations.

For many, learning about advancements in patient medical care is their primary focus at WVC. Between the sessions and vendors presenting the latest advancements in medical care, surgery, treatments, and diagnostics, one would think they covered all the bases for patient care. However, another area of patient care that receives little attention is the kennel.

The takeaway from Vegas is that there can be a better kennel system. CASCO Pet continues to improve pet habitats to ensure animal wellness and enrichment. The DRC lighting system and sound reduction technology are well worth a look for anyone frustrated with their noisy kennel that stresses animals and humans alike.

Speaking of stressing out our human Veterinary team, WVC proved that many companies are thinking about how to make the Veterinary healthcare team’s jobs less stressful and more efficient. One of the dreaded tasks of the team is inventory, especially doing counts. It’s tedious, time-consuming, and has nothing to do with caring for a patient.

Medility (Pilleye) has an innovative app that enables fast and accurate pill counting to help the team complete “tedious office tasks” so they can get back to taking care of their patients (and who doesn’t love caring for patients more than counting pills)? With all the talk about productivity, efficiency, burnout, and engagement, it is nice to see companies presenting solutions to improve how the team can get even those non-patient-related jobs done (now that is worth taking home from Vegas).

Another innovative business solution presented at WVC involved practice ownership. Urban Animal is not your typical independent or corporate-owned practice. It is a worker-cooperative business model. The takeaway from Vegas is that this innovative model provides a third option for Veterinary professionals interested in practice ownership.

While playing off that infamous marketing campaign for Vegas is fun, it is important to turn the slogan into a warning. Namely, don’t attend the WVC in Vegas and leave all those ideas behind! I am confident that every attendee jotted down notes and circled a few critical ideas gleaned from the many conference speakers. I am also certain that the vendor hall didn’t just fill up an extra carry-on bag for the flight home, but rather gave attendees hands-on exposure to innovative tools that benefit patients, clients, teams, and businesses. The innovations and new ideas you learned in Vegas must go home with you!

Finally, given all the talk about innovation, it is worth talking about the release of the 2024 State of the Veterinary Virtual Care Industry Report by The Veterinary Virtual Care Association (VVCA). According to Graysen Gilbraith Biensch, Executive Director, “The report analyzed over 2 million data points derived from more than half a million virtual care interactions globally, offering valuable insights into virtual Veterinary care’s current trends and outcomes.” A few key points are as follows:

  • Access to Veterinary care is a genuine concern in the United States:
    1. 22% of counties in the U.S. have zero Veterinary employees.
    2. There is a shortage of 12K veterinarians and 48K support staff.
    3. Over 25.2M companion animals reside in areas of low accessibility to care.
  • The VVCA Principles of telemedicine are:
    1. Telemedicine does not prevent or compete with in-person visits.
    2. Telemedicine is a tool for veterinarians to provide care to animals and owners unable to come to a clinic or secure an appointment at a clinic. It’s not meant to be a replacement for in-person care. Rather than either/or, it’s a both/and.
    3. Telemedicine does not involve prescriptions of controlled substances without an in-person examination.
    4. Telemedicine is voluntary and subject to the consent of both the animal owner and the veterinarian.
    5. Telemedicine is only permitted if the veterinarian is licensed in the jurisdiction in which the animal resides.
    6. Telehealth is not the same as telemedicine. Telehealth is general advice about animal care, not necessarily provided by a veterinarian, but does not involve providing a diagnosis, prognosis, or prescription for an individual animal. Telemedicine is only provided by a veterinarian.
    7. Practices may provide telemedicine/telehealth services to new clients and existing clients. These services may be provided by practice employees, independent contractors, or outsourced to Veterinary professionals with telemedicine/telehealth platform companies. These third parties are subject to the same Veterinary laws and regulations as in-person Veterinary professionals.
    8. Telemedicine services should be documented in medical records in the same manner and detail as in-person Veterinary services.
  • An interactive map for VCPR laws in every state is at Virtual Veterinary Care In the United States – Veterinary Virtual Care Association (vvca.org).

Anyone wanting to understand virtual care, having questions about implementing it, or needing to see the data before embracing it should read the report.

I am a huge advocate of watching how things are changing in the industry, and virtual care is one of them. Perhaps Graysen Gilbraith Biensch says it best: “What’s so critical to recognize is that we have to, as an industry, start somewhere in recognizing that there’s going to be tremendous change every day, every week, every month over the next few years in regards to virtual care. If we aren’t willing to honestly reflect on the current state of where we’re at and where we’re going and what the consumer is absolutely going to demand, then we make no progress.”

Once again, the critical takeaway message is not to leave behind what you learned. Recognize the importance of watching and learning about innovations in the industry. The reality is that our clients and our teams are also watching and learning—and they may be the ones to request changes in how we provide care to patients.