Feel free to follow up — Like human’s doctor’s appointments, know that it is always OK to follow up with your provider if you have questions, comments or concerns!
One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how can doctors and providers best care for their patients when they are not physically in front of them? What do doctors wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office? How can Telehealth approximate and even improve upon the healthcare that traditional doctors’ visits can provide?
In this interview series, called “Telehealth Best Practices; How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You” we are talking to successful Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and other medical and wellness professionals who share lessons and stories from their experience about the best practices in Telehealth. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewingDr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture.
Dr. Rachel Barrack is a licensed veterinarian, certified veterinary acupuncturist, and certified veterinary Chinese herbalist with an integrative approach to healing. She draws upon her extensive training in both eastern and western veterinary medicine to treat and heal and help animals — specifically dogs, cats and horses. Due to COVID-19, Dr. Barrack is now offering Telemedicine calls via FaceTime or Zoom!
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Becoming a veterinarian is one of the accomplishments that I am most proud of — I was that little kid who always loved animals and would loudly proclaim to anyone who would listen, “I’m going to become a horse doctor!” and I actually did it. Not many people successfully achieve their childhood dreams.
I received my degree in veterinary medicine from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. I later went on to study Traditional Chinese Medicine under animal care pioneer Dr. Huisheng Xie at the Chi Institute, where I became certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
As a veterinarian, I am always committed to offering my patients the best possible care in order to provide them with the highest quality of life at all times. Therefore, I am always exploring different methods to achieve this goal but never did I expect my area of expertise in Chinese medicine. However, when I started learning about traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and putting acupuncture, Chinese herbology, tui-na (Chinese medical massage), and food therapy into practice and seeing the incredible results I was achieving, the way I practiced medicine became forever changed for the better.
Two specific patients sparked my interest in Chinese medicine. Many years ago, while working full time at Belmont and Aqueduct racetracks, I was faced with a particularly challenging case. This particular horse had a very unusual lameness that would not resolve with extended rest and extensive western treatment. I had heard that acupuncture could be of help so although skeptical, I figured why not give it a shot. I reached out to another colleague who was a certified veterinary acupuncturist and shortly after being treated my patient was able to make a full recovery and eventually returned to racing. I was amazed!
Shortly thereafter I was treating a cat suffering from advanced cancer. Although this cat was receiving palliative western therapy, his owner was looking for something further to make him more comfortable. I watched as another colleague utilized acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy to help better the remainder of this cat’s life.
I was so intrigued that I began studying under Dr Xie of the Chi Institute in Gainseville, FL. Once I began incorporating acupuncture into my veterinary repertoire I was astounded at the amazing benefit I was no offering my patients and my practice of medicine was forever changed. Today offer an integrative approach to veterinary medicine which allows me to offer the best of both eastern and western therapies to the animals in my care.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The takeaway from this story is that sometimes life takes you on an unexpected path and that this can be a wonderful thing. Another special story near and dear to my heart is about a patient named Luca, who has Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD).
IVDD is a serious condition in which the cushioning discs in between the vertebrae bulge or herniate into the spinal cord space. This causes nerve compression resulting in pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Luca, who is a female mixed breed dog, experienced this situation firsthand and after becoming acutely paralyzed in her hind end, had to have emergency neurosurgery in an effort to rectify the situation. Today, through a combination of Western and Eastern therapies — including acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, Luca is progressing towards a full recovery!
Seeing my patients happy and healthy, while making unbelievable progress makes me job heartwarming and worth it!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Over the years I’ve had a lot of people who have helped me pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian. My family has always been supportive (although I did have to beg for my parents to get me a dog. I finally wore them down at age 16 and got my dalmatian, Bentley).
I have been fortunate to have had many incredible mentors who have imparted their wisdom to me during the course of my veterinary career including — Dr Guy St Jean at Ross University, Drs Erin Groover, Jill Narak, Andy Shores, and Wayne Waguspack at Auburn University, Drs Scott Palmer and Jennifer Smith at New Jersey Equine Clinic, and Dr Huisheng Xie at the Chi Institute.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how doctors treat their patients. Many doctors have started treating their patients remotely. Telehealth can of course be very different than working with a patient that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity because it allows more people access to medical professionals, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?
I am a licensed veterinarian, certified veterinary acupuncturist, and certified veterinary Chinese herbalist with an integrative approach to healing. My extensive training in both eastern and western veterinary medicine helps to diagnose, treat, and heal animals. As I am not currently seeing patents in person due to COVID-19, I cannot administer tests or medical procedures remotely. However, I am able to discuss and answer any of your pet health concerns from both a western and eastern perspective!
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a patient is not in the same space as the doctor?
Thanks to modern technology, telehealth is a wonderful way to connect with patients and their owners remotely when they can’t physically be with me or their primary care veterinarian. Telehealth creates an opportunity to ask questions and get solutions from a trusted source. A lot can be accomplished remotely via telehealth such as triaging if a situation is an emergency or requires in person care, discussing follow up care and management of chronic conditions, making dietary modifications, addressing training and behavioral concerns, and examining dermatological issues, among other things. Your veterinarian is a much more reliable resource than falling down a google rabbit hole when looking for answers regarding your pet’s health.
However, telehealth is not without limitations. Nothing truly replaces the thorough evaluation of in-person veterinary exams. As animals can’t vocalize what’s wrong like humans can, telemedicine relies solely on what your doctor can see via their screen and what an owner reports. Oftentimes, owners misinterpret what’s going on. An in-person physical examination and the use of further diagnostics (such as bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, and/or ultrasound) are the best ways to diagnose and treat patients.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You ? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Tell the truth — your veterinarian wants to help, not judge. Be as accurate as possible in the information you provide, even if it’s through a digital visit.
2. Everyone needs to evolve with the times — Telemed was helpful to quickly pivot my business and is an amazing resource for pet owners.
3. Social media — By way of social media, I have been able to stay in touch with patients, and answer questions they may have. Of course, I have made some “new” friends along the way.
4. Always be there — Whether it’s in person or not, it’s been great to stay in touch with patients during this hard time.
5. Feel free to follow up — Like human’s doctor’s appointments, know that it is always ok to follow up with your provider if you have questions, comments or concerns!
Can you share a few ways that Telehealth can create opportunities or benefits that traditional in-office visits cannot provide? Can you please share a story or give an example?
Telehealth is an efficient and effective way to connect with your veterinarian and provide your pet with optimal care. It also creates a unique opportunity to connect with a veterinarian or veterinary specialist, such as myself, that may not be conveniently located to see in person. I have enjoyed helping furry friends and their owners all over the country thanks to telemedicine.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help facilitate Telehealth. If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?
Maintaining contact with owners has always been a cornerstone of my practice, Animal Acupuncture. My clients know I am only a call, text, or email away. During the past year, I have utilized Zoom and FaceTime extensively to make communication even more effective.
Are there things that you wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office?
With everyone staying home this year, the pet industry — whether adopting pets, caring for the pets you have or focusing on their health more than ever — saw a spike like never before. Be honest — if you notice your cat is sleeping more than usual, make a note. If you think your dog is eating more than usual, keep an eye on that. Your vet — whether telemedicine or not — is always available to help you!
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring people together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
Telemedicine was really an interesting brand pivot, as I previously never offered Zoom and FaceTime calls. Coupled with how social media has helped my practice, I look forward to continuing digital evolutions and ways I/my practice can benefit!
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
No, I think as long as social media and technology continues to amplify opportunity small businesses like mine, I welcome it all!
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Don’t knock Acupuncture until you tried it! Acupuncture and western medicine have the same goals — to eliminate disease and support the best quality of life. However, each approach is suited to specific circumstances. Western medicine is ideal for acute disease diagnostics and surgery. Acupuncture can be very effective in treating chronic conditions that western medicine can help but not cure.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
www.animalacupuncture.com and follow along on Instagram, @AnimalAcupuncture!
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success