Owner-vet relationships in a digital age
Following World Vet Day (27 April), our Executive Vice President for International, Ramiro Cabral reflects on the changing relationship between vet and pet owner against a backdrop of ever-evolving technology.

The revolution in digital and social media has touched almost all of our interactions – from conversations with our friends to the way we shop … and even how we engage with our children’s teachers!

The relationship between pet owners and their veterinarian has not been left untouched, as e-commerce, wearable technology and social media continue to shape interactions between the two.

Like so many others, our industry has also had to adapt to this flow of (sometimes mis-)information and shifting demographics as social-media savvy millennials move into a greater position of influence.

Here, I’ve outlined some of the evolutions taking place in this crucial relationship. All of them, I believe, will ultimately improve the health and well-being of our pets in order to make them live a longer and healthier life.

More informed pet owners

With a wealth of online resources available, it’s never been easier for proactive pet owners to self-educate about their pet’s health.

A potential downside of ‘Dr Google’ is that vets are much more likely to receive challenging questions from pet owners. In fact, more than 4 in 5 vets (82%) say clients have challenged their diagnosis or professional opinion based on their own research.

But while this might seem to undermine trust in the profession, I believe the occasional challenge is a small price to pay for better informed and engaged pet owners. Many practices are adopting longer consultation times to facilitate more in-depth conversations and education.

Aiming higher

Our pets are seen increasingly as a member of the family, with more owners choosing to insure their animals in their pursuit of ‘gold standard’ care.

In contrast to when I was a family vet, many owners will shop around for the right veterinary partner – aided by online searches, reviews and forums.

Again, while this presents some challenges, it also means we must work harder as an industry to secure the trust and loyalty of the people who depend upon us.

Somewhat paradoxically in our digital age, that all-important personal touch from a vet is perhaps more important than ever.

Collaboration

As a vet, my father was an important and respected figure in his community. While this is still the case for vets in many parts of the world, I’m pleased to see that in more and more countries, consultations have shifted from a hierarchical to a ‘teamwork’ model.

Owners are more closely involved than ever before in decisions about their pet’s health, and I believe this will deepen with the advent of more frequent virtual consultations.

Along with wearable tech, virtual consultations will allow owners to monitor and check in on their pet’s health, sharing real-time data with their veterinary team.

These shifts and innovations will have a profound impact on the veterinary profession over the coming years. For many of us, it might even be an idea to try “reverse mentoring” with Millennial Vets for them to help us understanding new technologies and social media better. Ultimately, though, our focus will be where it always has been – on the wellbeing of the animals in our care.

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