cockatoo unlocks phone
Nikolai is able to unlock the phone all by himself, using his beak. Photo by Michael Steele.
A teenage family member loves video calls. Since I live a couple of thousand miles away, he often repeats “Call Christy?” until somebody picks up the phone or tablet. Nikolai is not your typical teen; he’s a cockatoo with an outgoing personality, fetish for destruction, and a love of electronic communications. Okay, maybe he IS a typical teen.
Nikki’s primary human knows not to ask me medical questions (“Birds don’t have hooves!”), but he does check in about advances and trends in veterinary medicine. Like Nikolai, he has an outgoing personality, love of mechanical mayhem, and near obsession with all things electronic.
It was only a matter of time before these things would coincide (minus the destruction and chaos), so I wasn’t surprised when Michael called asking me about a phone app his veterinarian wanted him to download. The app will allow Michael to access key parts of Nikolai’s medical record, request prescription refills and appointments, and will help the veterinary office send reminders and other communications.
These patient portals are increasingly common in both human and veterinary medicine, and while I’m a throwback who has an actual inkwell on her writing desk, I’m also willing to wholly embrace anything that makes communication between healthcare providers and their patients or clients easier.
If we talk a lot about communication at VetzInsight, it’s because many of us have been practicing veterinarians (the only two non-veterinarians are obsessed and obsessive pet owners), and we’ve all learned that communication is well over 50 percent of medical practice.
cockatoo phone in cage
Nikolai got so excited to talk to Dr. Corp-Minamiji and her kids that he had to be sent to his cage to talk to them there. Photo by Michael Steele.
There are few things more frustrating than seeing a sick animal without being able to refer to that patient’s medical record. Yes, physical examination and diagnostic tests tell us a lot, but history matters. While some owners have incredible memories or keep their own records and travel with them, those are the rare birds. I’m not judging; in times of stress I have trouble remembering my children’s names, let alone when the dog, cat, or horse was last vaccinated or why it was vomiting last summer.
This is where patient portal applications can be great.
Say Nikolai seems a little bit off on Sunday morning and his veterinarian’s office is closed. Now, “a little bit off” in bird-land is not something that can wait until Monday. To a bird, “a little bit off” can mean anything from “Oof, maybe I should’ve thrown more of those veggies out of the cage rather than eating them ALL” to “Hey, I’m literally trying to die over here.” Michael happens to be one of those obsessive owners who has Nikolai’s every feather and hiccup memorized (and probably in a spreadsheet somewhere), but he isn’t a veterinarian so he may get the occasional detail wrong. So rather than missing or mistaking a key part of Nikki’s medical background when he talks to the emergency veterinarian, Michael can just pull up the record from his phone.
Sadly for Nikolai, until someone invents a parrot-proof case (we’ve already learned touch screens are beak-compatible), he still has to rely on his service-primates for video calls and veterinary appointments. However, at least now his healthcare is accessible at claw-tip.
Your veterinarian may have different methods for keeping in touch, but it’s well worth making sure they have ALL the information needed to connect with you and vice versa.
- Make sure they have all your phone numbers, your email, and a correct mailing address.
- Make sure you have their phone numbers for daytime and after-hours.
- Make sure you are immediately available by phone when your pet is in the hospital
- Ask for summaries of records from pertinent medical events and preventive care visits, and keep those in a file you can find easily in case of emergency.
Until your pet can open the video chat himself or unless you hire a parrot personal assistant, keeping open channels with your veterinarian is your job.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.