more articles

Episode #87 of The Vet Vault: Revolutionising veterinary medicine through a universal health record

March 30, 2023

Our CEO, Dr. Steve Joslyn joined Dr. Hubert on his podcast The Vet Vault to discuss one of the most insidious problems in veterinary care – health data management – and how we’re building the connected, digitised veterinary system vets have been waiting for.

No items found.

Deep down, vets know how bad patient health data is.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
Let's talk about the problem that you're trying to solve – data management. When you were describing that feeling that you got, with this excellent technology that’s not quite there. It brought up such a strong emotional for me because I get that so often with so much tech.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Yeah – we’re promised something is going to work a certain way and it doesn't. So yeah, the problem that we're solving is all around veterinary medical data. And it's interesting because everybody knows how bad it is. But nobody has time to really sit down and assess it. Nobody has time to acknowledge it. We don't have time to wonder if there's a better way.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
I’m not going to disagree with you. Everybody knows it's bad but we’re used to it being this way. So why is it bad? What's bad? Or what could it look like?

The problem with patient health data: It’s hard to access.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
So, in an emergency clinic, the animal arrives. It's a six-year-old dog and you have no information whatsoever on that animal except from what you can get from the frantic owner.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
Which is always amazing. “Is it on any medications? Yeah. It's some tablets for, I think it's for... it's pink… uh, I think it's for his incontinence but maybe it's for his heart…”

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
And you know, in these situations the animal could have been seen by their vet two hours before that. They have blood tests, they have, everything, but it's just not available.

And we can’t even trust the veterinary health data we do get access to.  

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Even if it’s available – if they do have access to the history or it's printed out – it's full of mistakes. Because, you know, we’re human and we're typing in information with errors. When we look at a practice and their medical data, 60% of the medical records have mistakes – even in the patient identifiers. So, say the husband brings in a cat in March and the wife brings it in in April. There's two different records for the animal because it came in with two different people. Now, we have this splitting of medical data.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
And it’s name is probably spelled differently.  

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
It’s spelled differently or they’ve recorded the microchip one year and forgot one of the zeros. So, in this story, the husband brings the cat in for vaccination in March. The wife then brings it in in August and the vet goes “This cat hasn't been vaccinated in like four years.” And she's like “I tell the bloody husband every time he goes to the vet and he always forgets.” Meanwhile, the poor cat has been vaccinated eight times in two years!  

One trustworthy health record, available anywhere.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
So, to boil it down very simply, we figured out a way to lock the patient's medical data to its existing microchip. In the UK and most of Europe and Australia, it's a mandatory requirement for cats and dogs to have the microchip. We thought, if we could tie all the medical data to that microchip, then wherever that animal goes, scanning that microchip would open up access to this information.

However, you could put a million different pieces of information in there but it doesn't really matter to the end user unless they can implicitly trust that that information is correct. If it's full of mistakes and duplicates, then the wrong patient gets the wrong blood results and they're left at the start again.

So, the other part of what we do is make sure that every piece of data getting associated to that microchip and locked to that patient is not only true and accurate, but verifiable by the person downstream. And what I mean by that is that the person that's dealing with that information, when they scan that microchip, can see exactly when that data was captured and by whom.

The state of vaccine oversight in Australia (hint: it’s not great).  

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Think of Hendra virus in Australia. It’s a viral disease that goes from bats to horses and then humans can catch it from horses.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
…and can die.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Yeah, it has a 50% mortality rate. So when we're talking about trust, integrity and vaccine certificates, nothing's more important when we’re looking at a 50% mortality rate.  

Right now, before Vedi, the way that the vets would certify this is that they would write down that microchip number. And, because they're human, mistakes go onto a registry and then nobody knows that two horses left three days ago and they weren't vaccinated – and two more came during that time that haven't been updated on the list. But the registry says that they're vaccinated.

And so I think for something that's got such a massive biosecurity and zoonotic risk, that's not a great state – though it’s an extreme example. So we came in and said “hey, the vets can scan this microchip for absolute proof that a vaccine was done here in the Hinterland of the Gold Coast at this time.” They also scanned the vaccine vial and there's a GPS location with that image and a timestamped event with the certificate that the vet has done on their uniquely-identified device. And then we also use a blockchain timestamp and package it all up together.

This all means that now we have oversight into a vaccinated population – or we can see which batch numbers are going to which animals. There's so much more that's activated when you have clean, verifiable automated data – it almost changes the world.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
If we apply that to everything else we do in the clinic, it will save the vet's time because it's removing the human data entry and the errors associated with that. And we're giving the downstream vets or owners something that they don't need to question. And it all automatically plugs into their system.

A health record that connects you instantly to veterinary pathology labs.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:  
Clinical pathology is another one. The vets scan the microchip and they scan a blood tube with a special barcode on it. Vedi marries the two and then all they have to do is choose the test.  

Now there's traceability of that blood tube to the lab. It's compatible with the ‘sushi trains’ of analysers at the lab. Then the results come back and we timestamp those. Everything's automated.

We already know everything about that animal from a scan of a microchip, you know, who owns the animal, what sort of breed, age, everything there. We know the vet that it came from. We're not going ask them to fill out a form. We know all that information on the form. So we just say “hey, what test do you want to do? And give us some history if you want.” But now we're going to track the sample and the lab has all the data they need.

And then the results come back. We lock that to the microchip as well, so that if that animal goes to the emergency centre at three in the morning, scanning that microchip will show the last blood results – or the last 10. And all of this without all this data entry.  

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
That makes me very happy because we already have all that data. Especially with human stuff – you know, government things or tax or hospitals or things like that – you fill in the same information every time. And I think – but you already know this.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:  
And we're not just passing this information out willy-nilly. We're basically saying, “prove to us that you're a vet and, when you scan this microchip, the animal’s previous vets will let you view this information.” So, you know, you can’t just go to the dog park and scan all these dogs to get their owner's details.

They have to, one, prove that they’re the attending vet and they manage that owner. But, at the same time, we're going tell anybody “hey, this animal is vaccinated for rabies. Or influenza or Hendra.” That's information that every vet wants every other vet to know – or any animal health worker.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Going back to your question about ‘do the vets know this?’ I think the vets know the problem because they’re frustrated writing out something again and again that they know is saved on their practice software.  

There's some amazing practice software out there. They handle a lot of things – but the service providers still want you to fill out a form. And the reason they do that is that the service providers can't trust the data that’s in your practice software. It's full of mistakes – And they don't know which parts are the mistakes.

With Vedi, we just plug them into the next service that wants to use that verifiable data. A lot of people are asking “why wasn't this done at the start?”

You gotta keep them separated: The health record vs. the practice software

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
In the vet world, practice software became both the health record and the billing and the scheduling and the appointments and the stock and everything and now vets are starting to realise that an animal goes between different services all the time. Either its health data does, or it actually visits a referral hospital, an emergency room, the GP hospital on holiday – or it moves to Adelaide. The health record even travels to the kennels. There's a lot of people that need to see that health data.

Practice software, by design, locks health records up to just that service. They're not doing this maliciously – it's just they offered a service to take clinical notes. But what we're offering is a universal health record that stays with the animal and can go where the vets want that data to go.

So, Vedi is not becoming a practice software at all. We're becoming that health record that's going to be a bridge between these systems.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
Gotcha. One thing I just need to point out, it's not like you have some magical special microchip that receives all the information and stores the information on the microchip, right? It's just your normal everyday microchip.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Correct. Vedi uses the existing microchip and we use it as a lock and key. If that animal is there and the vet scans it, they prove to us that the animal's there. That unlocks access to the animal's data – and the ability to add information to it. Then it gets locked again when the animal leaves.

Locating pets overseas: a simple, secure system.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Just having that timestamped verification means they can say “woah, I can see exactly when that PDF was made.” Think about the rabies certificates in the UK or Australia. Right now, you have a vet that nobody knows doing a vaccine certificate for rabies. They scribble their signature on it and, when it's due next, they put a sticker that's already smudging on the card and tell the owner to not lose it.

Then the card goes to like sort of a district government vet who gives it a stamp of approval and then it goes to the exporting vet and maybe the logistics vet for a big stamp showing that they checked the documents.  

When it arrives on the doorstep into Australia or the UK. That's the first time we’re presented with this information. And we have to trust the integrity of the first vet clinic. What we’re saying is, let's put the importing authority, or the people that need to see that this animal vaccinated, into the consult room at the start. We're going to show them the image of the vial that was used and the proof of the microchip scan. We show the certificate as a digital timestamp as well. So that when they see it, when it arrives in Australia or in the UK, they know that it's not a forged document.

Dr. Hubert Hiemstra:
So, just to clarify, until the animal comes into physical proximity to the vet and I scan it’s microchip. Only then can I see what's there and I can add to it. Then the door is shut – is that right?

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
Pretty much. There are still aspects of the animal's data that will travel without the animal. Medical images will go without the animal as well as results and certificates. But to be able to access, add and interact with this high-quality medical record, you have to prove the animal is there.

That affords all these automations. And obviously we're not complete with the medical history yet. We're building strategically and logically. We started with the vaccination certificate, because there's a 53% chance that the animal walks into that veterinary clinic for vaccinations. And the owners were leaving with a paper certificate that, by the time they walked out the door, they've lost it. And then they're calling at Christmas saying, “hey, can I have a certificate? I'm going to the kennels.” So we said, “let's lock that to the microchip. If it goes to the kennels, they can scan the microchip and see it.”

That was the first step. The next logical place for us to go was clinical pathology with reference labs. And so we built that system. Now, we're looking at emergency check-in and referrals – so the vet can automate referrals instead of filling out web forms for five different referral hospitals.

A better way to care for grieving pet owners.

Dr. Steve Joslyn:
We also have an end-of-life module that integrates with a crematorium. I mean, how many times has a receptionist fielded a phone call from an owner saying “you've sent me a vaccine reminder from my animal that you put to sleep last week.”

And it's like “oh my God, I'm, I'm so sorry.” It's horrible but it happens. And it happens because information is not available or being used properly. And it's a tedious process to keep on top of this.  

With Vedi, if we see that animal as deceased, we will broadcast that out to all the clinics that have scanned it before saying, “hey, Mrs. Johnson has just lost her dog. Don't send her a vaccine reminder.” That's what we’re going for. We're building upon that functionality all the time.

Want to hear more? Check out the full podcast here.

Connect to Vedi, today.

Only pay for what you use, no lock-in contracts, cancel anytime.

Get started or book a demo