Last week, I attended the Veterinary Innovation Summit at Texas A&M University. It was my first time there, and it’s a relatively new conference, this being only its second year.
I’ve been to the usual veterinary conferences- including NAVC/VMX, WVC, EVECCS, and a handful of local CE meetings. And I have to say that VIS was not only enjoyable, but also offered something off the beaten track. It’s the place to go for all things new and different.
Of course, that’s not to say it’s different just for the sake of being different. The new innovations are highly practical, and designed to make life easier for everyone in a veterinary practice, including staff and clients alike.
Here are a few highlights from the weekend:
This optional, pre-conference add-on day was pretty exciting. It started with talks from marketing experts, which set the foundation for upcoming changes in the industry. Following that were the Startup Pitches, 10-minute pitches from five new, up-and-coming veterinary companies.
Think of the pitches as a bit like Shark Tank (in fact, one of the companies, healthypets.io, has already been on Dragon’s Den, the Canadian version of the show, and successfully secured an investment from one of the “dragons.”) The company founders gave a 10-minute presentation on their business, how they developed it, and why it is helpful to veterinary practices. Then, they fielded questions from the audience.
Featured Startups included:
- VETHERAPY, a Portugal-based stem cell/regenerative medicine company
- Shepherd Software, Inc, featuring a new practice software, designed by a veterinarian to be user-friendly, save time, and catch missed charges
- healthypets.io, an Ontario-based telemedicine company that is already seeing a lot of success
- Lacuna Diagnostics, LLC, a digital option for cytologies, designed to save the costs and waiting times that come with mailing slides to a lab
- Vetcove, a Trivago-like website for ordering from veterinary suppliers.
Veterinary Student Innovation
Besides the five highlighted Startups, there were new and innovative companies featured in an exhibit hall during the main event. Most surprising to me was the fact that I met at least two veterinary students who had already successfully established their own companies – while in school! – and several more who were interested in becoming entrepreneurs.
If you’re a veterinarian reading this… then you know how challenging vet school can be. There’s usually a solid 40 hours per week in class, plus the time needed to study at home. Then during clinical year, there are plenty of weeks when you’re there for easily 60 hours, 80 hours, or more…
Being an entrepreneur is also not an easy task… certainly not a 9-to-5, 40-hour week type of job. Yet somehow, these students are managing to juggle both school and entrepreneurship. I was so impressed.
And on another positive note, the veterinary school at Texas A&M University appears to be wholeheartedly encouraging this trend. While hosting the Innovation Summit, they had student volunteers who were there despite having an upcoming exam that Monday.
Dean Eleanor M. Green notes that they are open to creating new and non-traditional tracks for veterinary students, including an ‘Innovation Track’. Plus, they’re in the process of creating a dual DVM-Engineering degree. To say that they’re enthusiastic about innovation would be an understatement.
Crowdsourced and High-Tech Topics
Many of the breakout session topics were undecided prior to the conference. This is because the organizers requested topics from participants. Then, many who submitted topics were able to host a short presentation, along with Q&A or group discussions.
There were a variety of topics on offer, but it’s safe to say that by far the dominant topic was telemedicine. Whether you’re for or against the telehealth trend- there’s really no denying that it’s coming. Several companies are already present in the space. Of course, the rules will vary from state to state in terms of how or how much it’s adopted… but it’s a flexible form of communication that can be adapted as needed. And experts emphasize that it’s not for diagnosis or treatment purposes- just for general questions, or ‘can this wait until tomorrow’ types of questions, erroring on the side of caution and recommending a visit if there’s any doubt, of course.
And while the other topics varied, there was definitely an emphasis on using technology to improve efficiency in veterinary hospitals. There were talks and discussions on: new software, using Alexa and other home devices, and keeping up with online content marketing. And, there was also an interesting talk on applying blockchain to veterinary medicine- going beyond ‘cryptokitties’, and using blockchain technology to make medical records both more secure (unable to be altered) and more easily transferrable between GPs and specialists.
Bonus: We need more vets on LinkedIn
I only heard this a couple of times, kind of thrown in during the middle or end of a talk. However, whenever a speaker made the statement, there was a lot of emphatic agreement from the crowd. So if you’re reading this from LinkedIn… thanks for being there. Be sure to tell your friends 🙂
I agree LinkedIn represents a good place to improve business skills and network, so it will be great to see more veterinary professionals in the space, sharing ideas.
Bonus 2: Cat attendee
So maybe this isn’t so unusual for a veterinary conference… but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Bug (pictured here), who attended the conference with the rest of us humans. I never get tired of meeting adventurous, well-socialized cats. Thank you to Dr. Ken Lambrecht for bringing her!