Article: Texting and Emailing Your Veterinarian: Some Tips
by Aimee Eggleston, DVM
November 30, 2015
Ambulatory equine veterinarians drive. We drive a lot. We used to get lost a lot too. Not that long ago, I had 3 or 4 different detailed state maps stashed around the cab of the truck to help me locate my next call. I would often pull over to the side of the road when I was getting lost.
Then came smart phones and the global-positioning systems that are built into them. GPS applications on smart phones, most complete with realistic travel times, traffic alerts, and alternate routes if needed, have revolutionized my ability to get somewhere efficiently – saving time and gas. In an emergency situation, it saves confusion and angst as well, when trying to elicit “good” directions to a new farm, from a panicked owner with a bad colic!
My smart phone has other functions that have an effect on how I do my job. The camera and video capabilities, the ability to text and email – all these connect me to clients and patients in ways not imagined 10 years ago. I invite and encourage clients to email and text me. The speed and ease by which owners can text me information or email a picture or video enables me to triage a horse from a distance, answer questions quickly, and receive updates with ongoing medical cases. As with any new technology, however, there is a learning curve. Here are some tips and pointers that will help you and your veterinarian keep in touch.
To send pictures
Send only the most representative images. There no need to flood your veterinarian's email or text feed with 20 pictures of the same bump or cut or laceration. Two to three pictures taken from different angles are enough. If I need another shot, I'll let you know.
Back up. Over and over I notice that people want to get up close and personal with whatever they are trying to take a picture of. And invariably the results is distorted or blurry. Take a few steps back, then make sure your subject is in focus. I can enlarge a picture at my end.
Be careful. I will never forget the 15 pictures (see the first tip!) I received from an owner who wanted me to appreciate the sheath/prepuce swelling on her gelding. As I looked at the pictures, I realized that she had to be lying underneath the horse to achieve these views. Please, don't get yourself hurt for the sake of a sheath montage!
Warn yourself about upcoming graphic pictures. When you are about to send several images, be aware that your veterinarian may be some place (like out to dinner!) in which five pictures of that “bump on the penis” won't be appreciated. Can you imagine you vet's friend asking, "What are the pictures? Can I see them?" Give some notice about what pictures your veterinarian will be opening.
Identify yourself. To often I receive a picture that isn't “signed.” The accompany text asks what I think about the laceration on the leg and what to do about it and I'm left to wonder: “Who sent me this?”
To send video
Get closer. Unlike with taking a picture, when my tip is to back up, videos are often taken from so far away that I can barely identify the horse and the rider, let alone "that thing" the horse is doing every third step only to the left on a circle. Your veterinarian needs less scenery, more horse.
Texting and Email
Texting and email have their place, but not for anything urgent or an emergency. Your veterinarian may be out of town, or at an appointment, or watching her daughter's swim class – under any of those circumstances she's not monitoring texts or emails. If you have an emergency, call your veterinarian's office!
Also remember that your veterinarian likely receives a lot of of email and text messages every day. Have some patience if you don't receive an immediate response; call if you need a quick response.
Occasionally send your veterinarian something fun and “normal.” We usually get the bad-news text messages and emails. I remind clients that I love to see the good, too. Did your horse (my patient!) do something amusing? Is your horse doing so well that the two of you went trail riding? (Walk into a pediatrician's office and you won't see a picture of the runny-nosed toddler with an exhausted dad...you see the happy, smiling, fun-loving kid and his beaming father.)
We veterinarians love to hear good news and see joyful pictures. They can make our day.