Artificial Intelligence in Veterinary Medicine: Tips for Safely Implementing AI

The chances are that at some point this year (whether you’ve wanted to or not), you’ve stopped to at least consider AI (artificial intelligence that is not artificial insemination) and its place within veterinary medicine. Whether your anticipation has been apprehensive or one of über excitement, the wait is now over. AI is well and truly here!

With over a decade of experience in software engineering, our Cofounder and CTO Will Monk not only played a pivotal role in building and implementing systems such as the ticket booking platform for the likes of Trainline UK but also launched veterinary’s first AI assisted communication tool, earlier this year.

Although Will is no stranger to artificial intelligence or the implementation of new technologies in veterinary medicine, he still feels very strongly that veterinary teams need to be sure they understand how to begin safely implementing AI in their practices.

Are Pet Owners Prepared for AI?

The number of households with multiple resident pets continues to grow, globally with little sign of it slowing down anytime soon. Given the ever-growing population of pets you simply can not ignore AI. What’s for sure is the equally increasing number of pet owners out there certainly are not! In fact, Forbes recently reported that pet owners as a demographic are extremely early adopters of AI and other tech tools. The reason being the humanisation of their pets and the parental desire to gain more access to insights around their winged, four-legged and fur family member’s health care needs.

Interesting to note however, is that despite this thirst for more knowledge, pet parents, on average, are only surfacing less than 10% of their pet’s ailments. With a whopping 92% of a pet’s health issues still not being presented to their vet. It is here that unarguably AI (under the guidance of qualified veterinary teams) is more relevant and valuable than ever before. This is because it can remove the unnecessary complexities of activities such as ‘Telephone Tennis’ and ‘Answer Phone Tag’ with great ease. Adding AI into a clinic not only opens opportunities to implement more efficient workflow solutions, but by doing so it can also elevate the standard of pet care a clinic or practice can offer. Look for ‘AI assisted’ features rather than ‘AI led’ to increase your capabilities without sacrificing control.

It is also good to note that regardless of the style of AI tools you use, when incorporating AI within any clinic it is essential that you make sure the AI assisted services you layer in are respectful. That is, they understand or can accommodate the nuances of the profession, do not risk data privacy breaches at any level, and do so while still helping you maintain a personal, well engaged relationship with your clients. As a veterinary team it is essential you enroll in technologies that empower you. Look for hybrid AI features that are proven to augment existing patient advocacy efforts. As it is this level of service that will ensure you maintain your place at the heart of every one of your patient’s pet care journeys.

Could AI Compromise Our Professional Integrity in Veterinary Medicine?

In my experience the best way to ensure the integrity of any tech you utilise is to make sure that it has been developed by the community it was meant for. At PetsApp we place the tools and features we create in the hands of the veterinary teams it affects. Doing so allows that community to be the judge of how best to mediate its functionality and reliability. For vets this will include best practices for using it as part of their pet owner engagements. I encourage you to take new AI tools and try to break them to tailor them to your specific needs and enhance them. Don’t bury your head in the sand and try to ignore them, be a part of what grows them into the essential extension of our services we very much need them to be. Don’t fear them!

A recent white paper published by VetCT (in collaboration with AI), concluded that overall, the use of AI tools in radiology (for example) had proven to significantly improve the diagnostic process, when used in conjunction with human expertise. The human involvement being the key to using these new technologies to enhance (not replace) our capabilities. Responsibly generated AI is developed under robust regulations, with open dialogue to ensure that all elements prioritize the well-being and safety of the pets and people it serves. Because let’s be honest, as amazing a leap as AI is, it does have its limitations which is why it’s important that any veterinary AI functionality is overseen and monitored by veterinary professionals. AI generated chats for example are a great way to clear through the daily avalanche of basic pet queries that do not need to come into the clinic, but collectively take up a lot of time to filter through, monitor and reply to. Automatic AI generated answers that can understand the whole context of the chat in question and suggest the best next reply by the veterinary team, means you’re only reviewing and sending, rather than thinking up, typing and then proofreading any given answer. This kind of AI functionality can appropriately support a veterinary team, allowing them to simply oversee and sign off before a reply is made whilst also clawing back hours of previously lost time from their working week. Time that can be better allocated to patients that need to be seen and assessed in person.

Ultimately you want to use AI to help you help more pets, without sacrificing more of your time. AI is not going to replace vets, but vet professionals augmented with AI will likely displace vet professionals that just close their eyes to it and let the opportunities pass them by. When there is tech out there that can augment and enhance our existing patient advocacy efforts, we should engage with it. This is an exciting time now to see just how many more pets we as a community can each serve more easily and with greater ease.

We've an entire library of continued learning on AI in veterinary medicine, for more on the topic and the first of their kind features we've created, why not check out the following.

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