Veterinary visits are not usually included among the joys of owning pets. Just thinking about bringing a cat or dog into the waiting room causes pet lovers to recall the sounds of scared meows and nervous barks. All the animals know there’s a risk they’ll get a shot or possibly leave wearing a cone of shame.
Since this experience is universally seen by pet owners and pets as a negative one, it means the industry is ripe for transformational change.
The time for pet telemedicine is here.
But it’s likely much higher than that.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), there are currently 76,811,305 dogs and 58,385,725 cats in the US. That doesn’t even include pet birds, which total more than 7,538,000, or the guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, rabbits, iguanas and all the other exotic pets people own.
Considering that vets recommend each pet should at least get an annual check-up, the numbers are there for multiple pet pharmacies, veterinarians and pet products companies to offer online consultations and advice through their own branded apps without worrying too much about their competition.
For example, just multiplying the total number of dogs in the US by the median price for a vet visit, which is $253, provides a market potential that tops $19 billion per year. And that’s just for dogs!
How Telehealth Can Help in COVID-19 Pandemic?
Pet Telemedicine Lags Behind The Human Alternative
The leading variable that has slowed the growth of pet telehealth adoption is veterinary associations and government regulation. Before Covid-19, the associations were in agreement that veterinarians need to physically touch and be present with an animal to treat it. This viewpoint led to federal and states regulations that prevented the use of telemedicine for pet prescriptions and diagnoses.
However, due to quarantines and social distancing guidelines, the FDA and a handful of states relaxed their rules. The positive results have shown the industry that pet telemedicine works and is needed.
Pet owners like it, too. Not only is it more convenient and safe for them during the pandemic, but they see that their pets are more relaxed, too. It’s also a good way to answer owner questions quickly without taking valuable time for in-person appointments from the animals that require it.
So who will lead the change in the industry? Here are two areas where explosive growth is possible:
1. Online Pet Stores With Pharmacies
Most pet stores with pharmacies sell more than just medications. They offer toys, food, books, videos, travel crates and many other types of pet supplies to their guests. Moving the pharmacy from an in-person only experience to online opens more possibilities to selling merchandise. The demand is definitely there, because pet owners who get prescriptions online are likely to add other items to their carts at the same time.
But don’t just look at it as a web experience. Smartphone use accounts for more than half of all online activities now, and an app provides a few benefits that aren’t as easy to implement with just a website.
The biggest perk is more loyalty. Once a customer has gone through the process of downloading your app, entered their payment details, and had an excellent experience, they’ll stop looking online for alternatives. Your service is the one they’ll use every time.
An app also allows businesses to send notifications for new products, coupons and reminders directly to each user. It’s much better than constantly buying ads in an attempt to reach repeat customers.
Making an app experience like this requires several components that must work together: e-commerce, payment processing, customer analytics, UI and UX design, scheduling for recurring orders, and possibly an online version.
2. On-Demand Pet Consultations
There will still be some veterinarians who prefer to only offer prescriptions in-person, but that doesn’t mean they won’t offer online consultations. Others will do everything other than surgery online.
Just like the triage nurse that takes phone calls to help humans decide if they should visit a hospital, vets can do general examinations through the camera to decide if an in-person appointment is needed.
More than anything, it allows pet owners to get some quick advice when they feel like they need it. Selling peace of mind is a valuable service in and of itself.
And it’s even better when it’s through an app.
Holding a pet up to a computer camera isn’t ideal for anyone, especially the pet. Rather than being limited to one location with a computer, an app with access to a phone’s camera allows the owner to follow a pet wherever it walks or go where it’s most comfortable to chat.
The components for this kind of app experience can be broken down into the following categories: video calls with a veterinarian, scheduling appointments, prescription writing and approval, pharmacy referrals, ordering and delivery.
What’s Next For Veterinary Telehealth?
Telehealth has primarily focused on communication tools. Incorporation of new technologies will only continue, from connected litterboxes and implantables to wearable devices3 and in-home diagnostics.
Blue Whale Apps’s Capabilities
Blue Whale App has been involved with every component of telehealth medicine projects, from strategy development and planning to custom UX solutions and coding.
Specifically, we’ve implemented video calling services, EHR (Electronic Health Record) integration, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) integration, and led a variety of healthcare-related e-commerce projects. You won’t find a more experienced app development firm that can help you unlock this untapped market.
Blue Whale Apps specializes in end-to-end development for Fortune 1000 businesses and government agencies. Recent projects have included apps within the healthcare, technology, public utilities, entertainment, retail, consumer products and automotive industries. And last year, Blue Whale Apps was named the #1 Mobile App Developers by AppFutura, Clutch, and Good Firms in 2019.
The first-mover advantage is still possible in a sector of the pet industry guaranteed to grow by billions of visits and billions of dollars for the foreseeable future. Get in touch with us to give your customers an experience they can’t wait to tell their friends about.
Have more questions?
If you have any questions or would like a health care app consultation and a quote, drop us a line and we’ll get back to you.
Related: Covid-19 and State of Healthcare Rise of Telehealth 2020