Pre-op testing, wellness exams are fueling in-office diagnostics
Selling the benefits of in-office diagnostics? Four words just about sum it up: “convenience” and “better patient care.”
Hematology analyzers, chemistry analyzers, electrolytes and rapid tests have become commonplace in the veterinary clinic. “Most practices are pretty sophisticated,” says Rachel Schultz, practice consultant for the American Animal Hospital Association. Even those that still send many of their tests to an outside lab have in-house capabilities to test critically ill patients on an “I need to know now” basis. Still, Schultz has observed that rural clinics often have more comprehensive in-office labs than metropolitan ones, which have quick, convenient access to outside labs.
While many veterinarians are convinced of the need for in-office diagnostics for emergency patients, they may not believe they see enough critically ill patients to justify acquiring sophisticated lab equipment, according to those with whom Vet-Advantage spoke. Be that as it may, there’s a good chance those clinics do engage in two other clinical activities that might justify it – pre-op testing and wellness exams.
While pre-op testing has already proven itself as a driver for in-office lab diagnostics, wellness testing is another. And those to whom Vet-Advantage spoke consider it a strong one. Annual blood work can give the doctor a good look at the well-being of the animal, says Lesser. Hematology and chemistry screens can help the doctor pick up problems, such as renal disease, before the animal presents with symptoms. The prognosis is better, because the doctor can help the client take steps, such as putting his or her pet on a therapeutic diet, that not only will improve the pet’s health, but probably save the owner money in the long run, as he or she avoids expensive treatment down the line.
Not surprisingly, some veterinarians voice concerns about the cost of in-house testing. Not only are they concerned about the cost of acquiring analyzers and supplies, but they believe that in-house testing costs the client more money on a per-test basis than if the clinic sent the work out.