Smartphones have revolutionized the innerworkings of modern society. Humans now have the ability to check the weather forecast, deposit a check, communicate with someone in another country, and schedule a ride, all almost instantaneously and from their mobile device.
As smartphones have continued to impact the basic format of everyday life, their applications have spread into the fields of veterinary medicine and diagnostics.
Once foreign terms like “telemedicine” and “telehealth” have become colloquial jargon in veterinary medical communities. The power of the smartphone has arguably changed the way veterinarians practice and their standards of convenience.
Telemedicine: What is it?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), telehealth is defined as the overarching term that encompasses all uses of technology geared to remotely deliver health information or education. Subsequently, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications regarding a patient’s health status.
This convergence of technology and health has led to the development of several mobile applications and services aimed at providing convenient and quick answers to pressing medical questions.
TVMDL Mobile and other digital services
In 2017, TVMDL dove into the world of mobile phone applications with TVMDL Mobile. At first, the app offered users another method of viewing TVMDL’s test catalog and contact information. However, over the past three years, TVMDL has made significant strides in the realm of telemedicine; adding several digital services to its test catalog.
Now, in addition to TVMDL Mobile’s original features, users can submit images for the agency’s digital services through the app.
TVMDL’s first step into digital services was digital cytology. Although this service is not novel to the agency, the addition of digital cytology was an added benefit to TVMDL’s clients. This service allows clients to submit an image of a microscope slide, likely taken on their smartphone, submit the image on TVMDL Mobile or through email, and have a preliminary diagnosis within one hour of submission.
“Evaluation of cytologic specimens provides the most helpful clinical data when it is rapid. When cytologic specimens are picked up or shipped off to a diagnostic lab, it can take several business days for results,” Clinical Pathology Section Head Julie Piccione, DVM, MS, DACVP said. “Although this is reasonable for some cases, more rapid results may be needed for critically ill animals.”
Piccione noted the value of the service is often most proven on Fridays when her and her team can provide a rapid evaluation to clients who would otherwise have to wait for results over the weekend using standard testing methods.
“We once had a [specimen from a] cat that was very ill and not responding to antibiotics,” Piccione said. “The cat had enlarged lymph nodes, there was concern for lymphoma, and euthanasia was being considered. However, we evaluated images from a lymph node aspirate that showed Histoplasmosis. This drastically change the patient’s outcome and the veterinarian was able to change treatment accordingly.”
The next addition to TVMDL’s lineup of digital services was digital toxicology. Similar to its predecessor, digital toxicology offers clients the option of submitting images of potentially toxic forages for identification. Although this service doesn’t decrease turnaround time for results, it does remove the barrier of shipping forages to the laboratory.
Currently, TVMDL is developing its newest digital service: digital parasitology. This service is a joint venture between TVMDL and the Parasitology Diagnostic Laboratory at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Similar to TVMDL’s other digital services, digital parasitology will be based on images submitted through TVMDL Mobile.
“It is a great resource to have. Many clinics perform in house fecal flotations, but don’t have years of expertise in the area [of parasitology] and can easily misdiagnose,” Mindy Borst, LVT said.
Borst, who is the clinical pathology laboratory supervisor and who will evaluate submitted images, has already seen the positive impact digital parasitology makes during the service’s validation testing phase.
“I received a fecal sample on a horse with an extremely long history, indicating the horse had tapeworms and they couldn’t get rid of them. We performed testing and found no parasites,” Borst said. “I confirmed with repeat testing and again informed the submitting veterinarian the sample was negative. I asked if he had any images he could share, so he sent me photos of these ‘parasites’. It turns out he had been treating the horse for tapeworms for several weeks when in reality he was looking at pollen, which is completely normal in a horse fecal sample.”
“Without that photo I would have had no clue what he was looking at. Also, if he would have sent that photo to me weeks ago, he never would have misdiagnosed the horse he treated multiple times,” Borst said.
World-renown expertise in the palm of your hand
Adding to the agency’s reputation of creditable and personable service, TVMDL’s phone application and digital services have added a remarkable level of convenience. By using these services, clients have an almost instantaneous connection to a TVMDL professional, ready and willing to assist then with their diagnostic testing needs.
“In today’s digital age, who wouldn’t want such a fast and reliable resource right there at their fingertips?” Borst said.
For more information about TVMDL’s test offerings, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call the College Station laboratory at 1.888.646.5623.