Artificial Intelligence Is Coming to a Veterinary Practice Near You

Artificial intelligence (AI) has long been considered controversial in veterinary medicine. While veterinary professionals expressly welcome innovation in all guises, we're devoted to hands-on services, independent thinking, and a live-by-your-wits mentality. So, our first instinct is to question the concept of computerized diagnoses or any other machine-assisted means of delivering veterinary care.

While veterinary professionals will ever remain at the heart of veterinary healthcare, the use of computerized methods to boost our brainpower is unquestionably compelling. Using terminology that often evokes science fiction, we refer to these innovations broadly as "artificial intelligence."

This article aims to demystify this technology by highlighting how some of our most fundamental services increasingly rely on AI support and how it promises to positively transform our practices. As with all emerging technology — basic computer technology in the 1980s, digital imaging in the 2000s, and telehealth in the pandemic disruption of 2020 — veterinary professionals will eventually wonder how we ever lived without it.

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Here's how AI will change the way you work and why you'll love what it can do for your veterinary practice.

AI as a Diagnostic Tool

Some veterinary practices have been using a version of artificial intelligence for decades now. Specifically larger veterinary practices have relied on proprietary systems that embed enhanced diagnostic tools in their practice management software. These programs suggest potential diagnoses, next step therapies, and diagnostic testing alternatives based on clinical signs and test findings. In human medicine, for example, diabetes prediction, traumatic brain injury prognostication, and early atrial fibrillation detection are already aided by AI in this way.

Independent veterinary industry enterprises are building bigger, better, less expensive, and more powerful versions of the kind of AI-driven diagnostic tools that, in the past, only the big players could afford. Practice management software systems increasingly offer more than just a list of differentials. They employ complex AI systems to interpret simple veterinary findings with room for independent, creative thinking at every step.

AI isn't just for determining differential diagnoses — it's also for complex diagnostic devices. Consider an AI-imbued stethoscope to help identify arrhythmias and other cardiac-sourced disorders. Or a tool that screens urine sediment for abnormalities using AI technology. These devices are invaluable, saving time and increasing efficiency in the practice.

AI as an Imaging Tool

Some AI-reliant imaging services help veterinary teams organize images for clinical interpretation, increasing practice efficiency significantly. Others include what they call "augmented interpretation." This compares your image to similar images in its database. The quality of the comparison is for humans to interpret, giving veterinary professionals the security they need that no machine is making diagnoses for them.

The Benefits of Using AI in Your Practice

Without AI, most veterinary practices can't do much with the aggregated data they're gradually accumulating every day. Data-driven AI tools could add speed, lifesaving medicine, and better client communication to any veterinary practice:

  1. AI is inherently fast. It takes once-cumbersome, time-intensive tasks and generates answers in seconds, which saves time and money. It does so by redirecting highly trained human resources and increasing operational efficiency.
  2. By helping diagnose patients faster, treatment can be initiated earlier in the disease process. When every minute counts, AI can be a lifesaver. Moreover, AI's efficiency means more clients can afford care.
  3. AI has also been helpful for client communication. When diagnostics can be performed faster — even in real-time — communication is effectively streamlined. AI can also improve communication directly by offering diagnostic reports with text and visual aids that clients can easily understand. DocWire News shares that some AI tools can even analyze exam room interactions, taking doctor-speak and breaking it down for clients.

Ultimately, AI promises to be a big boon to the veterinary healthcare industry. It's not about making our jobs smaller — not in our lifetimes, anyway. Rather, it's about making our brains more powerful and our work more efficient and effective, all while raising the standard of care and enhancing client communication.

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Patty Khuly

A graduate of both Wellesley College and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Patty Khuly is an award-winning veterinarian known for her independent thinking, her spirited pet advocacy, her passion for the veterinary profession, and her famously irreverent pet health writing. She lives in South Miami with four dogs, countless cats, two rescued goats, and a hilarious flock of hens.

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