2023 has been a big year for AI. The public has started to realize the capacity for the technology to evolve and ultimately play a role in key parts of their daily lives. As functionality continues to grow, AI is on a track to bring surprising capabilities to practices. It can speed diagnosis timelines so treatments can be started more quickly, streamline tasking to make workdays easier on staff, fill in gaps when staff are stretched, and provide more information to communicate medical diagnoses with pet owners.
We’ve looked at how AI is already integrated in practice operations, as well as what might be likely in the not-so-distant future. Some of what we’ve found might surprise you. What’s not surprising is that these technologies work best with human interaction and management. They serve as another tool that adds to what educated, experienced practitioners and staff already do, providing a reassuring perspective and more information.
1. Faster radiology reads
It’s like having a radiologist that works just for your office
Status: Already hereAI has been successfully used to read even full body radiographs in as little as five minutes. Patterson Teleradiology powered by Vetology is an example of how the software does this, comparing a current scan to a bank of thousands of X-ray images from other cases. The tool provides positioning guidance along with remote radiologists to provide immediate feedback on the quality of the image and answer any questions about the diagnostic interpretation. Practices have found it validates their findings, and newer staff members appreciate the training and reassurance of a second opinion.
2. Diagnose microscopic samples without sending them to a lab
Quicker answers may allow treatment to proceed sooner
Status: Already hereAI uses complex algorithms to process medical information, and now these tools are available to read digital scans of biological material samples. Vetscan Imagyst, by Zoetis, can look at blood or fecal smears and can evaluate cell counts and identify pathogens, without having to wait for a lab’s turnaround. If a provider has questions about a result or wants more information from a lab technician, that help is available.
3. More robust dictation software
AI algorithms use predictive capabilities to boost accuracy
Status: Already hereWith caseloads increasing, dictation software has been a help for practitioners that don’t have a lot of time between appointments and don’t want to spend hours documenting notes after work. However, some versions of the tool haven’t accurately interpreted speech patterns. It can be slow and misreads occur.
As AI becomes integrated into software capabilities, using algorithms to learn and even predict medical vernacular, this problem is lessening. Once notes become part of a patient record, AI may be able to not only transcribe faster, but also make connections between dictated notes and treatment history and breed-related health conditions. This would offer providers new information while supporting better communication between veterinarians and clients.
4. Practice management with even fewer touches
Chart keeping, delivering patient reminders, and customer service could become nearly automatic
Status: In the worksPractice management software is known for its ability to streamline staff workflow and bridge shortages during lean hiring periods. AI connections will extend this benefit. When used for patient record management, technology can potentially connect health information with a larger body of information about a breed in less time than it would take a doctor or staff person to research it. AI can also be used as an extension of a practice’s customer service staff, empowering remote chatbot reps with information to answer basic client questions and interface with a clinic calendar to schedule appointments.
5. Wearable pet wellness monitoring that helps providers get ahead of issues
Support the diagnosis process and predict future issues
Status: In the worksWearable pet monitors give clinics a broader range of information to use than just an animal’s behavior in an appointment or client observations. It can track heartbeat in relation to activity, scratching in relation to the times when an animal eats, fever in response to medication, and more.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As AI integrates with these monitors, it can potentially use algorithms to connect these behaviors with existing data in an animal’s chart as well as breed information and up-to-date medical knowledge. These links can help providers get ahead of medical issues rather than having to wait for symptoms to become more visible.