Tag Archives: information

The internet is not the enemy

Knowledge has never been so readily and easily available. It is instant, mobile and has the power to revolutionise how we operate as vets and work together with clients on their pets’ healthcare.

phone, knowledgeThe problem is NOT that people look on the web; they will continue to do so more and more. The issue will not cease to be and nor should it. The internet is the ultimate learning resource.

What is at fault is that we are generally POOR at knowing HOW to LEARN and critically appraise the quality and reliability of information, especially that found on the internet.

A classic example is that of dog breeding/ puppies. I saw a Pug owner the other night whose female had been ‘accidentally’ mated (there are no accidents in these situations as there is a widely advocated option known as neutering) and so we are now looking at said bitch being due to whelp in the next 2 weeks. The owner in question admitted that they had never had any experience of breeding dogs but had “looked online” and was alarmed to “learn” various things, all of which were quite frankly sensationalist at best and downright incorrect at worst. The advice I gave, in addition to dealing with the immediate issue for which the dog had been presented to me in the middle of the night, was to advise the owner – nay, urge the owner – to visit their nearest well-stocked book store, buy and READ a comprehensive guide to dog breeding, especially the sections pertaining to whelping and puppy care. Books are great in as much as they generally still do undergo some degree of review before publication and so it is less likely that the information contained is plainly wrong, in contrast to much of what can be found online with the universal ability for anyone with a connection, voice and opinion to fire their musings out into the world. Hell, I am one of those same people as demonstrated by virtue of this very blog! How can you be sure that what I write on here isn’t just a load of inaccurate bollocks? You can’t is the truth of it. The same goes for much of what is published online, especially that found on forums/ discussion boards and blogs. Therein lays the challenge and risk associated with relying blindly on “the internet.”

I was fortunate enough to benefit from a rigorous training in the importance of critically appraising information for reliability and so do feel that I am able to mix my information sources (online versus print, etc) relatively safely. Many, unfortunately, do not and in the veterinary profession we still hear “but the breeder said..” or “a website I looked at said this (completely fanciful/ sensational/ wrong) thing…” again and again. Our battle is becoming more and more against the swathe of half-truths and inaccuracies that swirl around in the electronic ether and set against a client base that is becoming generally less trusting and more questioning of what we do, which is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself.

I love the internet and the educational power that it contains. From TED talks to online courses, blogs from recognised experts and amateur enthusiasts alike, to social networks and their power to engage in real-time conversations and information dissemination, the web is and will continue to be utterly transformative. It is vital, therefore, that in order to get the most value out of this precious resource people know HOW to LEARN, what information to accept and what to question and potentially reject. Part of our role as modern day veterinary professionals is more and more going to be as information curators and sign-posters, directing our clients and the wider animal-owning and caring population toward sources of information that will lead to sound healthcare decisions and outcomes. As old-fashioned as it may sound, books do still serve as a good place to start and this is why I often still direct my clients to their local bookstore.

Smart Phones, Smart Practice

Originally published in VN Times (Vet Nursing Times) – VN Times Technology Column – Smart Phones, Smart Practice

Smart Phones, Smart Practice

If someone had told us ten years ago that we would, one day, all keep a small supercomputer in our pockets, they may have been dismissed as some crazy, science fiction obsessed oddbod. How smug do we imagine them feeling today as that is pretty much what has happened, with a very high number of us all owning either iPhones or other such all-singing, all-dancing smartphones.

They have become so much more than just a simple means of making calls or sending text messages, with the ability to do virtually anything that we could imagine wanting to do with a small electronic device. They are information providers, email and chat platforms, games consoles, cameras, even tickets for everything from concerts to flights! Do they have a place in the veterinary clinic though? I personally think the answer to that is yes, they do, and I can see them becoming ever more useful to both vets and nurses.

One obvious use of smartphones in the clinic is as a portable, easily accessed source of information, from the Veterinary Formulary for rapid medication checks, to a video tutorial on placing a feeding tube, or lining up a dental radiograph for the best view. Being able to access information at our patient’s sides is only ever going to improve the quality of our service to them.

With the invention of apps, which will likely be heralded as one of the 21st Century’s Great Innovations, we now have some great clinically relevant tools at our finger-tips, for everything from calculating dose rates of medications and drip rates, such as the VetPDA Calcs app on iPhone, to more specialised apps and portable gadgetry like the AliveCor, which is an awesome instant ECG monitor that runs via the iPhone and a funky case, which houses the skin contacts and works wirelessly. All very cool technology and, even better for us in practice, all portable.

So where will the future take us? What will we be using our smartphones for in the clinic of tomorrow? It is likely that every one of us will use a portable device at work, through which we will have access to our patients’ notes, be able to easily design treatment plans, monitor everything from heart rate and rhythm to temperature, and even take payments from clients for in clinic purchases. The future is bright; the future is mobile.