Animal Health Technology Innovations

It’s difficult to overestimate the impact that technology has had on Veterinary care. But you’d also be mistaken for thinking that animal health technology innovations have come as far as they can; in fact, the future of digital Veterinary Practice still has a long way to go.

A recent article on the VetSurgeon website picked out some highlights from a fascinating talk on this very subject, published by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) at this year’s RCVS annual Open Day.

Speaking to delegates and visitors, Dr Adam Little – a Canadian Veterinarian himself and also President of Exponential Vet Inc., a company specialising in animal health technology – shared his thoughts and visions on the future of transformative Veterinary tech.

Dr Little’s talk, ‘Digital Veterinary Practice’, offered an exciting look into the ways veterinary surgeons will be able to offer better care to even more patients. He opened his talk with an exploration of how technological change has improved at an exponential rate over recent years, before weighing up the emerging technologies that could shake up the Veterinary industry.

Internet of Things

Crucially, Dr Little feels that the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ is set to hugely influence the sector. With more computers and devices wirelessly connected to the internet – there are currently around 9 billion connected things, but this is predicted to increase to 50 billion by 2020 – data and communication will be more advanced than ever before.

So how could this data be applied to Veterinary Practice? Well, Little predicted that we are likely to see more of these connected devices being worn by animals, much in the same way that humans monitor their health with wearable devices. So in this way they could be used to measure reproductive health and hormones; to monitor activity and behaviour in companion/domestic animals; and to track performance in horses. For production animals wearable animal health technology offers the potential to improve yields, prevent disease and maintain food chain integrity.

Tomorrow’s Animal Health Technology Today

And what about the technologies that are already making waves? There is already a smart litter tray that can measure an animal’s toilet habits, digitised microscopy, 3D-printed medication and an oral pill camera that can be swallowed in order to obtain 360-degree internal images. When combined with virtual reality technology, which is becoming increasingly accurate, there is a real chance that long-distance examinations could become a reality.

When it comes to the role that the RCVS is going to play in all this, Dr Little suggested that the profession should pro-actively engage with these technologies. It can achieve this by fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in practitioners and Practice owners; identifying which areas would need learning and retraining; and forging a network of early adopters who can share their views and experiences, encouraging others to do the same.

He also noted that regulations could be leveraged to attract more ‘disruptors’ to work along the association, and that challenges within the industry could be framed as ‘targeted problems’ whose solutions can be crowd-sourced.

Dr Little, provides lots of food for thought. In what ways do you foresee technology disrupting the Veterinary healthcare industry for the better? Do you think that long-distance, virtual reality examinations would catch on?