Phone A Vet – For Veterinary Professionals
Dear veterinarian – introducing you to Phone A Vet
Phone A Vet (PAV) is a smartphone app connecting animal owners with veterinarians. It’s for farmers, pet owners or anyone having questions about animals but wanting the assurance that comes from speaking directly with a veterinarian. It’s for veterinarians in practice who field a lot of phone calls from animal owners, not just their clients, it’s for veterinarians not in practice who want to exercise their knowledge and experience outside a practice setting, at their convenience, and it’s an option for any veterinarian who wants to keep earning money when work is otherwise quiet. Instead of giving free phone advice, now you can get paid for it.
The animal owner uses the app to find a suitable veterinarian using the search function or by scrolling through a list of PAV registered veterinarians and practices. A green button indicates the veterinarians online and a grey button the veterinarians offline. Animal owners can elect to be notified by SMS when an offline veterinarian comes online.
When an online veterinarian is selected, the animal owner initiates a session request that includes a question or outline of a problem and pictures, videos and other information. The selected veterinarian receives an alert via SMS and “push” notification and can review the case (and the owners star rating) and decide if they want to take it. The veterinarian must accept the case within 15 minutes or the request is automatically cancelled.
Information may be exchanged via chat messaging within the app prior to the veterinarian commencing an interactive up-to-15-minute tele-videoconference session with the animal owner. Most session are expected to go for 5 to 10 minutes but can go for up to a maximum of 15 minutes. All of this happens on animal owners’ and veterinarians’ smartphones.
The smartphone camera lets the veterinarian and the animal owner see and talk to each other. The rear camera switch lets the owner show the veterinarian the animal and its environment. A visible timer counts down the 15 minutes and then cuts the tele-videoconferencing session. After the session the veterinarian can send a text message via the app to provide follow up information to the animal owner. The veterinarian’s name, town and state/territory of residence are visible on the app along with a short bio and areas and species of interest and experience, however phone numbers and email are not revealed.
At the end of a session, feedback can be provided using a star rating and comments field by the animal owner and the veterinarian. All feedback is reviewed by Phone A Vet admin before being published and anything that is written that is hurtful or inappropriate will be censored.
The animal owner pays $24.95 AU inclusive of gst for a session which includes the up-to 15 minute video call. Of this the veterinarian receives $18.00 AU and Phone A Vet receives $6.95 AU (to cover costs of video, voice and text communications, the financial transactions and various hosting charges). The financial transactions are run through a third-party provider, Stripe, who’s software provides the technical, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure to make and receive payments over the internet.
The App is designed for use on iPhone and Android smartphones and is downloadable free from Google Play or the App Store. There are actually two Phone A Vet apps – the one named Phone A Vet is for animal owners, the other named PAV for Vets is for veterinarians. Animal owners register on the app via their smartphone. Veterinarians however must register via the Phone A Vet website www.phoneavet.com.au where the online registration form and instructions reside. The completed form and scanned copies of drivers licence or other photo ID and certificate of veterinary registration are required by Phone A Vet admin and Stripe as antifraud measures. Once approved the veterinarian is provided with login details and can download the veterinary version of the app (PAV for Vets) and commence providing services.
When animal owners download the Phone A Vet app and register on the App they enter their credit card details. And when veterinarians register via the website they provide bank account details. At the end of a session the financial transaction occurs, and receipts and invoices are generated. If the session is interrupted or doesn’t go well the veterinarian can refund the owner the full fee. There is no provision to refund part of the fee. If the veterinarian refunds the fee then the veterinarian doesn’t get paid.
The Phone A Vet veterinarians must be registered to practice in Australia. As a provider of services for another company (PAV) the veterinarians are categorised as contractors. As a contractor you will need an ABN and if your turnover is more than a certain amount you will need to register for GST. In 2019 this amount is ≥$75,000. You can register for an ABN for free at https://www.abr.gov.au/business-super-funds-charities/applying-abn. It is highly recommended to have professional indemnity insurance of at least $10M.
Veterinarians are bound by the veterinary practice and medicine dispensing laws of the state or territory where they are registered which means they may not always be able to practice telemedicine or provide tele-diagnoses depending on the laws of the jurisdiction and whether the animal owner meets the jurisdiction’s criteria of being a bona-fide client of the veterinarian. When a request comes in, the veterinarian can see the location and case details and decide if they want to accept the session.
The veterinarians are however able to provide educational tele-advice to anyone anywhere, and if they fear breaking the laws around telemedicine, they may take the approach of using hypothetical scenarios just as financial advisors, lawyers and veterinarians do on talk back radio.
When practicing tele-veterinary medicine, a clinical record must be kept in line with veterinary practice laws. The session record is kept on the apps of both the animal owner and the veterinarian that can be accessed anytime, however for a complete and accurate clinical record it is recommended to keep additional notes.
There is an obligation to report notifiable diseases.
There are protections for veterinarians in the Terms and Conditions for animal owners. It is recommended that you read the Terms and Conditions for animal owners to understand those protections. The protections include the animal owner understanding and accepting the risks of errors in clinical judgement that may occur with tele veterinary medicine and the animal owner agreeing to behave appropriately.
We welcome any comments, queries and questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or through the app (go to Settings and Support).
The Phone A Vet team