Veterinary challenge: Occupy the Internet to build credible information for pet owners
In fact, more than 75 percent of pet owners use the Internet to access pet health information even before they pick up the telephone to make a veterinary appointment, Becker said in a presentation to more than 150 veterinarians during a Power Hour presentation at CVC San Diego. And this trend has changed forever how consumers communicate and access information.
"The Internet is the most powerful tool of mass communication handed to human beings since the printing press, and I'm here today to tell you that if we ignore this power, we miss this wave, at our own peril," Becker told attendees at the national veterinary continuing education conference.
"(It takes) six months to get from Missouri to California by wagon train, six hours from New York to California by jet and 2.3 milliseconds from New York to L.A. by the Internet," Becker said. And while it is a powerful medium, there is plenty of misinformation that is dangerous to pets. In fact, Becker recounted three personal experiences this year of false Internet-based medical recommendations that led to pet fatalities.
Veterinarians need to fight back, Becker said. In fact, he challenged veterinarians to take back the role of educator by posting credible medical information online or recommending quality sites for pet owners. He called on veterinarians to capture client e-mail addresses to help facilitate communication through veterinary practice websites, e-mail alerts and patient updates. It is believed that most veterinary practices have just 20 percent of their clients e-mail addresses. Yet, e-mail remains an important gateway to foster quality communication between a practice and its clients, he said.
"How important is e-mail? Ask yourself if you would rather get a voicemail or e-mail. If you say e-mail, you're in good company. In fact, a study by Harris International suggests that seven out of 10 respondents told the pollsters they do not mind being contacted by work while on vacation. And nearly six in 10 say they prefer to be interrupted on vacation by e-mail. That's saying something."
Text messaging via cell phones offers another efficient way to remind clients about upcoming appointments or inform them about a case, Becker said.
Technology makes communication fast and very efficient. "It also allows us allows us to drip feed information about care to our clients."
And that is what is going to help veterinarians reclaim the Internet -- a steady and deliberate attempt by veterinarians to use the web and social media as tools to educate pet owners, spur communication between doctors and clients and ultimately improve the health of pets.