The world of virtual care is expanding. You may have even used these tools for yourself recently. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have looked for alternatives to in-person visits with a healthcare provider. But did you know that you can now access video consultations with a licensed veterinarian anytime you have questions about your pet’s health?! FirstVet is leading the charge as a digital veterinary platform, making professional pet care advice available to pet parents from their smartphone, tablet, or computer.

What is virtual care?

In the veterinary setting, the terms virtual care, telehealth, telemedicine, and teletriage are often used interchangeably.  While this isn’t necessarily wrong, there are some important differences to be aware of. Let’s clarify some of these terms before moving on…

Virtual care and telehealth are general terms used to describe the use of technology (smartphones, tablets, home computers) for communication between clients/patients and veterinary professionals. The mission of virtual care providers is to offer patients (or pet parents) reliable and trustworthy information and education tools and assist with patient care in a remote setting.

Telemedicine can only be performed by a vet if there is already an established veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) in place. For this to occur, the veterinarian has to have seen the patient and performed an in-person physical exam within the past 12 months. In other words, the vet is located in the same state as the patient and is familiar with their needs. An existing VCPR allows the vet to diagnose (when applicable), prescribe medications, and give a prognosis for the pet’s condition.

Teletriage services can be provided by veterinarians without a VCPR. Vets who offer teletriage services can provide timely assessment and management of pet patients from anywhere in the country. However, they cannot diagnose, prescribe medications, or give a prognosis for the pet’s condition. The purpose of teletriage is to help pet parents make good, safe decisions for their pet’s health. And this is especially useful if you aren’t able to schedule a timely appointment with your regular vet. A teletriage vet can help you determine if your pet needs to be seen at an emergency clinic right away or if it’s reasonable to manage your pet’s illness or injury at home.

So, what is FirstVet?

FirstVet is a teletriage service, offering pet parents the opportunity to video chat with licensed vets, 24/7. Establishing its roots in 2016 in Sweden, FirstVet has expanded its services to Norway, Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the US.

FirstVet vets have at least 5 years of clinical experience and receive extensive training in teletriage and client communication. You can learn more about the FirstVet team here!

How does FirstVet work?

It’s simple, fast, and free to create a FirstVet account! Download the FirstVet app for iOS or Android. You’ll be able to log in using your email address, Facebook, or Google account. Register your pet(s) so everything is ready should you need to speak to one of the vets. Users can access these services anywhere WiFi is available, making veterinary teletriage a smart investment in your pet’s health care plan.

Have a health concern or general question? Schedule a video consult directly through your app. Most of the time, you can speak to a vet within 30 minutes! Choose a time that suits you, enter your pet’s information, describe your question or concern, and upload any relevant photos.

Open the FirstVet app at your scheduled start time. A vet will call you directly through the app and take it from there. During the 10-minute video consult, be sure to have your pet close by. Your vet will want to say ‘hello’ and make a more thorough assessment when necessary.

Your FirstVet vet can answer questions about your pet’s health or help you triage an illness or injury. If your pet needs treatment or can’t be cared for appropriately at home, the vet can help you determine if your furry friend needs to be seen urgently at an emergency facility or if they can wait to be seen by your regular vet during an in-hours appointment. No more guessing or Googling!

What types of concerns can a virtual vet help with?

To date, FirstVet vets have been able to resolve 65% of pet parent concerns from the comfort of their home. This means that approximately 2/3 of in-person veterinary visits can be avoided by using a virtual care service.

Examples of topics covered by FirstVet experts include:

  • General wellness advice. Ask the vet about your kitten’s vaccines, deworming, or upcoming spay. Have questions about nutrition, behavior, or traveling with pets? FirstVet can help with that too!
  • Injury or illness. The experienced vets at FirstVet can help you decide if your pet can be safely cared for at home or if they should be seen by a physical vet. Not sure if it’s an emergency or if it can wait? Your FirstVet vet can assist you in making that decision.
  • Post-surgical or chronic illness questions. Discuss your concerns about your pet’s recovery from surgery, how to monitor for signs of pain or infection, and how to care for wounds. Have questions about an upcoming surgery or treatment plan? FirstVet vets can talk to you about tests and procedures so you feel informed and empowered to take an active role in your pet’s healthcare needs.
  • Hospice care. Virtual care services allow you to seek expert advice without having to bring your senior pet into a clinic. Ask the experienced vets at FirstVet all your difficult questions regarding quality of life and end-of-life planning from the comfort of your home.

If your FirstVet vet recommends that your pet be seen by their regular vet or an ER vet, you’ll arrive for your appointment feeling prepared rather than overwhelmed. If your pet needs a prescription or special testing, you’ll already have a good understanding of why those recommendations are being made!

Read more:

What is Veterinary Telehealth?

Veterinary Virtual Care – FAQ

Sign up for your free FirstVet account here!