In This Episode
Reception is the busiest part of the veterinary clinic, the spot that most communication passes through. Instead of waiting for people to call looking for updates on their pets, what if they could be provided proactively? This week on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast, Shawn and Ivan sit down with Amanda Hoffmeyer of Fur Baby Tracker to discuss how sending information before it’s asked for removes a huge burden from reception, how those updates can be monetized, and whether there is still a place for text messaging in a field of rich media options.
Ms. Hoffmeyer recommends the Non-Obvious Trends Series by Rohit Bhargava and the How I Built This podcast from Guy Raz and NPR.
- Workflow Optimization
- Real-Time Monetization
- Texting vs. Rich Media
Shawn: You are listening to the Veterinary Innovation Podcast. My name is Shawn Wilkie and along with my awesome co-host we interview the innovators in the veterinary space every week. I’ve been wanted to go ahead and introduce today’s guest.
Ivan: Hi, my name is Ivan Zak, and I’m happy to introduce Amanda Hoffmeyer. We’re gonna talk about real-time monitoring for clients, or I guess for patients for clients, which I guess the way you put it, in the veterinary hospitals. Amanda is the CEO of a Fur Baby Tracker.She’s also a CEO of Red Brick partners, which is a B2B veterinary marketing company. Previously she was a director of marketing at LiteCure, where she worked on companion animal health. She holds a bachelor science in marketing management from Pamplin, college of business, being studio art from Virginia,and tech school of visual arts. And multitime NAVC betty award winner for veterinary marketing. On a personal side of things, her favorite animal movie is the Ambors new crew, owns 3 cats, I’m not gonna be able to pronounce it, Amanda, it’s you. What are the names of the cats?
Amanda: Charlemagne, Schrudy, and Backster.
Ivan: There you go. Thank you. So monitoring for clients, you know, what comes to mind immediately is that monitoring device, is it monitoring where your cat is inside of the hospital? Monitoring in what way?
Amanda: Yeah, it is a common question that we’ve gotten. “Hey, is this like a tracker that we’re gonna find our lost pets?It’s not a tracker for a lost pet. What it really is is a tool that designed to help the pet owner know what’s going on with their pet when they drop them off at the clinic. So it’s in-clinic communication tool for the staff to all be on the same page about the real-time status of the pet, as well as the pet owner.
Ivan: Cool. So how does that work? Is this video, text, is it location? We had a bunch of this ideas when I was in SmartFlow, and I think that you had to tackle it very specifically, so I want to kind of to unwrap that.
Amanda: Absolutely.Yeah, so it’s an application, it’s cloud-based, so it works off of every single device in the clinic, whether it’s veterinarian technician personal cellphone, or it’s a receptionist desktop computer. So it’s an application that’s all completely customized for every single clinic that allows them to do kind of two major things. One the analogy I like to use is a pizza-tracker. So, if you’ve ever tracked a pizza from Dominos, or, I live in the North East, and even some of our do pizza-trackers now. What it lets you do is kind of look at your pizza ot its journey from being made, being in an owen, in the car, and coming to your house. So this is the same concept with the pets. So the pet owner is going to receive real-time text messages throughout their pet plan of care. So they can see “Okay, great, Charlamagne is in surgical prep. Okay, he’s in surgery. He’s out. He’s getting laser therapy. He’s ready for pick up.” So, as a pet owner, I get a text message every time a tracker changes. And I also have an app that is made for me so I can go in and I can see all of that information, too. So it’s kind of combinationation of the pizza tracker and for anyone out there who has small children you may be familiar with day care trackers. I have a 3-years old, and so he’s day-care has an app where I get updates throughout the day and pictures of him, I can get little special notes from the teachers if he was bad or extra good. What he ate for lunch. So, really keeps me as a parent is a loop all day long of what’s going on. So that’s the other side of Fur Baby tracker is that we can share real-time information with the pet owner to, you know, both include, I’m really in this journey of care. But also just to give them their peace of mind that they really want when they’re worried about their pets. So they can receive pictures, they can receive notes, and other information like food or medications that the clinic chooses to share this information. And again, it’s all coming via text as well as through an application.
Shawn: Welcome to the show. I loved how you guys just jumped right into it. I didn’t even..I didn’t even welcome her, Ivan, this was kind of rude. (Amanda laughs). This is so cool for my car. I dropped off my car the other day and it’s always mysterious, you know, and I think it’s probably the same in the pet care space. You drop off and you wait. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait. So actually question for you, Ivan, was this functionate because it’s built into SmartFlow? Because it seems like a big gap on that journey on the, on the workflow?
Ivan: Yeah, this is..We really, really wanted to tackle this problem. It solves a huge need. And I just had a terrible thought when you were describing about pizza. I was thinking about pet care, and then about the cremation phases of the pet going into (Everyone laughs) Bad analogy.
Amanda: Oh my god.
Ivan: So, but what happens, is that really prevents people to. You know, you always tell them “Call us after two”. And then they call you at noon and they “Hey, how is Fluffy doing?” And then the reception has no idea what’s going on on the back they page the technician, the technician is doing whatever procedure it is. So they start yelling at them, and they with the Fluffy right now, doing XY Z, and then everyone is distracted. So it’s a huge need. In SmartFlow, we had, it was monitoring and communicating with everybody so you click the button and you choose where it is. Our dream was to actually text at the moment where you click the button,and text to the owner. So my question is How do you trigger? Is it just the manual input? Is there any sort of automation? Cause it seems like it could create a lot of labor on the side of the veterinary hospital to text. Is there any sort of the automation that could help trigger those events?
Amanda: You know, all of those are good points. So what you just explained in terms of the process was kind of what I witnessed before I decided to build Fur Baby when I was in the oncology clinic filming some video of a new treatment technology, and the care that pets were getting wasn’t incredible. And what happened was that the receptionist spent a lot of her day in the treatment room because of the phone calls. Just so many phone calls. People wanted to know what was going on, it was extremely distracting to the technicians have to stop what they were doing, get the update. Obviously, the pet owner is sitting on hold the whole time. So not really a great workflow for the clinic. And then the receptionist were spending a lot of time running back and forth, the technicians were spending a lot of time stopping what they were doing. So from the technology standpoint, everything has been built to really try to make life simpler for technicians and for reception. So from the receptionists standpoint, the only thing they have to do is have their desktop machine open, and they have this great dashboard where somebody does call in they can just click on a pet and tell exactly what the status is. And there is a lso like a note section so that the staff can internally communicate with each other about a pet online record. But in terms of the updates actually coming from the technicians, everything is driven by drop-downs. So even in notes, there is a completely customizable note data-base, so what each clinic can do is based on the tone that they want to adopt, cause I’m a marketing person, so I’m big on the clinic making sure their voice was heard and the way they want to communicate with pet owners. And, obviously, also, just the standardization of communication is super-important for clinics, especially as we grow in corporate it becomes more of a thing. So the note data-based was customizable and it was actually dynamically pull in the pet’s name on the note. So even if you are just clicking a drop-down to say Hey, some to pull surgical note. To the pet owner, they’re getting a really, really custom notions from you. And at the same time you can just snap a picture with your phone, and all of the sudden you know we’ve got a whole new experience for the customer. So ultimately, very-very transactional for the staff to be making those updates.
Shawn: That’s so interesting, I’m just like witnessing over the last couple of months of the podcast is the tech stack in veterinary medicine is growing so deep, it’s unbelievable. You know, the thing that comes to mind, obviously it’s like integration with things like SmartFlow. And other flow management applications that you’ve explored that yet, Amanda, you have any kind of hopes and desires, we’ve got most of people listen to this show, I know CEO’s of major veterinary teams listen this show, and so it’s kind of interesting, because tell us your greens, because I’m sure there’s somebody listens to this is gonna call you and ask you about it.
Amanada: So, you know, for baby tracker, we are trying to do one thing right now and do one thing really well. Which is a facility that in clinic communication, and keep everybody on the same page. But you know, ultimately, we have talked to some folks in tele-medicine who have, you know, had interesting potential collaborations and things of that nature, because you know this, this need it makes sense really to work together. So we’re actively really looking for this kind of partnerships and collaborations that are good for all of the technologies. And ultimately, are just trying to figure out how to really improve workflow for the clinic. But you know give the pet owner really that way-close experience that we expect when we get a pizza tracks to our front door, we should be able to do a lot more when our pet is operated for us.
Ivan: That’s great. From the value proposition. Just, I’m gonna, probably, harb in the direction that you might be on the discovery phase right now. When you were talking veterinarians. Cause veterinarians like a lot of, you know, shiny objects, and then they’re really honored to sell it. So, I think that what you’re proposing, is very valuable. Certainly, at least in my mind, it creates this new workflow and it prevents of the phone calls coming in. It doesn’t answer the phone call, it just prevents extra-staff and the load on the front desk. And as we know, the frontdesk is the most busy department in the hospital. So that decreases the stress, and the communication you have on the back. So I think it’s wonderful. When you explain it to veterinarian, how do you explain where there are savings, is it the efficiency, what problem do we solve for that? Cause in general, the communication is wonderful, the quality of care is wonderful, but where is the money? That’s sort of the thing we all have to answer to the veterinarians. So if you can walk sort of business that you present to veterinarian would be great
Amanda: So, you know, obviously, the big time-saver here is with the call volume. So most clinics are using the platform to, you know, instead of making that proactive call to the vet, the pet owner, we’ll send them a quick message through Fur Baby for one of their standard notes, that says “Hey, you know, we have so and so bloodwork done. Give us a call, we want to review it, we found something that we would like to treat today. So instead, you know, before you’re making a call, you’re getting a voicemail. Maybe the client is listening to the voicemail and calling back, maybe not. So if they do, then they call back, nobody knows what the deal is. So obviously, one big benefit here is just that decrease in the outbound calls, the decrease in the inbound calls, and when the inbound calls do come back, we’re saving a lot of staff time that they’re not running in the back and distracting multiple people from their specific task at hand. But the other thing that we are seeing is that when the Fur Baby is being used as a real-time communication tool, especially in like surgical situations, one example I can give is, you know, in a regular dental clinic, you go in, you don’t look for anything necessarily, but you find a tooth that needs to come out. Like oh, if we could just tell the pet owner that right now and snap them a picture of it, they’d approve it, we can convert this into a surgery, it’s better for the pet, we’re gonna make more money of of it. And we’re seeing a lot of clinics doing exactly that wiith platform. So instead, where that might have been “Okay, well, we can’t keep a pet under anesthesia, we’re done here. They have to come back again now, we have to go through all of this again. That’s not the case with the platform. And just from a revenue perspective, the model for a baby tracker is that we do recommend it, the clinic are making a small technology fee for every pet that they track. That’s how it works. And you know other spaces. I know in specifically the human day care space, the parent is the one kind of paying for the technology. So, ultimately, we’re gonna save time, but we’re also are gonna be making a little revenue on every single pet that we track.
Ivan: So you’re actually monetizing the owner?
Amanda: So what we do is you know the clinic is for baby tracker customer, but what we recommend the clinic do is that they pass along that technology fee. And it’s funny, cause you know, some clinics are choosing to bake that in. But there are other clinics that say “No, we want to?13:20 that because the pet owner has more value in knowing like oh this is something that I’m getting, and I’m gonna take this more seriously, because you know this is the service being provided to me instead of it just kind of being hidden. So there is kind of a catch with both.
Ivan: That’s fair. So that just really reminds me about the conversation that I had. When I worked at IDEXX, one of the, one of the readers there, was texting to everybody and she said, she was at her mechanic, and they did that, they were looking at the car, they were taking pictures. And then it was, she went her like an oil change, and then over the text message, they said there is another part, here’s the picture, 900$ extra. Do you want it to be done or not right now? You can come back later. And then, you know, she was impressed, she was texting to the entire team that she was saying “Isn’t it the time for veterinary medicine to have something like that. Which I told it’s a time to get a new mechanic. But the point is that I think you are getting (laughs) you are getting this point across. And I think this is great. Because so now I think there is another value to this, its upsell. I mean if you you know put it in right terms, it’s an upsell, whatever you need to do, you not only help with the communication, decrease the workload, and then inbound and outbound, but also an upsell mechanism, which is way easier to text back and say “Sure, do it, cause I’m at work, I don’t wanna talk to you, I’m not picking up the phone”. So that’s, that’s just great.
Shawn: Yeah, and to build on that, like I really like this idea of the upsell. It’s almost like a premium feature. You know, like, and I wonder if, you know, it’s something that is positioned to every client, or it’s an upsell? Because I know like especially with the emails, and everybody being on their phone nowadays, people don’t wanna phone call in the middle of the day. You know, I call Ivan all the time, he never answers his phone.
Shawn: Yea, great, I forgot about that. We’ve discussed this minute earlier. So we can just refer people to the episode, I don’t know, 4. So yeah,but no, I like the idea of an upsell, and you know, just this kind of multiple check-in per day, and kind of, I’m sure, in the app, you can kind of, you can even have 8 check-ins over the course of the day or 4 check-ins, just coming positioning it for the clients are needed or wanted, but then I think it also has value for every client. So I think your approach is probably brave, where it’s just built into every, every invoice and don’t necessarily do it as an upsell, but there’s probably some gold in there for an upsell even if it was a standart, you get so many check-ins per day, I mean just to hear if you thought about that, Amanda? Have you thought about you know taking it to another level from where you’re at, like maybe it’s like a gold and silver client-communication perspective, and you explored that at all?
Amanda: Yes, there definitely have been some thoughts about you know the upsell potential in general, like as a large category. You know, one particular thing was like “Hey, you know, if you’re a clinic, who you recommend a certain product, both surgically or, you know, whatever the case may be, or you’ve got an account where you prefer that they you know do their online pharmacy reorders that there would be way to kind of communicate that to the platform. Because then, ultimately, you know, we’re creating an eco-system where it is kind of the point of contact with our communication with the client and the clinic is going to get value in a lot of different ways. And, you know, one thing too, we’re trying like to give a little look behind that curtain just from philosophical standpoint that you know I’m just gonna talk about laser therapy for a moment because I worked with a laser therapy company for so many years. But your pet owner probably doesn’t know that you’re doing laser on every single post-surgical pet. And if they see a tracker for laser therapy and then they get a cute picture of their pet in doggles – that’s going on social media, you’re gonna get, texting all of their friends and “Oh my gosh, look how great my clinic is”. So yeah, we really are trying to you know figure out way that the application can provide value to the clinic in a bigget type of way.
Ivan: And the owners getting it through the text message or also inside of the app?
Amanda: Both. Yeah, so they get a notification on the text message that they have a picture waiting for them, they have to go in an app to look at the pictures. But all the notes come via text, and the way it kind of tacticky works is the receptionist checks the pet in, and when they check the pet in, the owner immediately gets the text message that says “Great news! Your veterinarian uses Fur baby tracker, click here to download the app, and click here to set your password, so reception never has to do anything like telling them what to do because everything is kind of automated through the messaging system.
Shawn: It’s a great flow for distributing. And then, yeah.
Ivan: Oh wow, that’s cool. So a little pivot in the question. So this is super-interesting, I’ve been following tele-medicine companies for a while, and it’s been such a, you know, topic on, you know, indistinct VIS and we were talking about there several vendors on the market, and I’ve been following. There was a lot of developing of the video, with the owner, and then I was having hard time understanding how do you incorporate it into your workflow? Like how do you add this? People don’t like video. They kind of turned it on for this episode, but not all people want to do that. So, so, and then with several companies that I’ve been talking to, they said that people actually out of the functionality that they have in tele-medicine, the text is more actually utilized. So,so how do you see that? Do you see that the video will take over or actually we’re gonna go back to more of this, text messaging, and that’s what people prefer.
Amanda: My opinion is that the text messaging is going to be preferential because it’s so passive. You know, the video thing is hard because the benefit of the text is that it just comes to you and you don’t have to actively seek it out and you don’t have to stop and take time,you know, it’s really fast and easy. But, you know, even I go back to the day care discussion, like my kids have a camera, I’ve never looked at it, because I don’t have time to sit there and you know try to figure out which little head is his. And I don’t necessarily think that the video feeds are going to be the end. There is always gonna be a subset of people who you know really want that information to feel comfortable. But text messaging is here to stay, in my opinion.
Shawn: Yeah, big time. So one final question from me is: Have you yet worked in any approval process for billing? So say there’s a large procedure that needs to be done on a pet that hasn’t been approved or discussed. Is the app used for approval process for those procedures? Have you had anybody ask about that or you’re doing that now?
Amanda: So we have not had anybody ask about it yet. The app does have one functionality that allows the pet owner to kind of communicate back, and so I know that some clinics are using that. It’s called a drop-off note. So in the application, the pet owner has the ability to send a one directional note, and it’s kind of label drop-off known as an expectation that you’re gonna be texting back and forth with the technician. However, I do know that some clinics say “Hey, you know, if we send you a picture during surgery, go ahead, and you can put it in the drop-off note and approval if you want us to go ahead and do something. So it’s not formalized yet, but you know, the more stories we’re hearing about it being used in that manner that stuffed on the feature-road map.
Ivan: Awesome. Yeah, I think it’s one thing that I’ve learned multiple times in startup, that you are so lucky to be able to have people to tell you what to do next, because if it was up to me I would be building software that nobody would use. It’s great once you actually start to see the back loop. This is been super exciting and interesting and really quick. I don’t know where the time went. I’ve got a couple more questions for you as we kind of wrap up here. Amanda, it was super awesome to have you on the show. We’d like to ask everybody a couple questions to wrap up. One is any books or literature that you’ve come across in your career at this point?
Amanda: Yes, for sure. There is one particular book that I buy every year. And it’s called “The non-obvious trend theories”. I definitely recommend that. Usually comes out either at the end of the year or right in the beginning. But it’s written by a futurist, and he does a great job of curating. Usually, I think it’s like 15 trends, but it’s really super interesting, especially for people in technology, because it looks at these trends that are kind of go across different spaces. And I find that, I spend so much time with those books just really reading and getting great ideas, especially for veterinary medicine as you look at these trends that expand way beyond our industry. And how I built this, it’s definitely a must-listen podcast for anybody trying to search something.
Shawn: Awesome. That’s great. And then, the last one, is who else do you know that you think we should have on our show?
Amanda: Elizabeth Green. The CEO from Breathe Media. I would highly recommend talking to her because those guys, you know, I have my marketing agency as well, so I work with them very closely with clients and you know help them to do maybe plans stuff what they are doing with data is incredibly innovative. I mean, when you start talking about the stack development in the veterinary medicine, I think those guys would be definitely worth talking to…