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“Telehealth With Your Vet” With Dr. Shlomo Freiman

I think COVID exposed some vulnerability in the veterinary industry. Vets are essential, but in many cases are asked to only treat urgent cases, and even then, they must do so while socially distancing. Those who hadn’t established telehealth already were clamoring for a solution. I am hopeful that vets are finally feeling some urgency […]

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I think COVID exposed some vulnerability in the veterinary industry. Vets are essential, but in many cases are asked to only treat urgent cases, and even then, they must do so while socially distancing. Those who hadn’t established telehealth already were clamoring for a solution. I am hopeful that vets are finally feeling some urgency to adapt to a more virtual environment. Their clients have come to expect it. I’m pretty confident in the future of telehealth.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Shlomo Freiman.

Shlomo Freiman, DVM, is a co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Petriage, a leading pet health technology company that provides fully-integrated telehealth solutions for veterinarians and their clients. A graduate of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and 26-year career veterinarian, Dr. Freiman created Petriage to help veterinarians and pet-parents provide the best possible care for their pets.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in a small, rural community in Israel. Although our local vet lacked the great resources and technology that we have today, he was always there for us and for our pets. That stayed with me. As a vet, I really enjoy building these strong relationships with my clients, helping them understand the often-complex medical issues facing their beloved pets, and guiding them through all the choices and options available to them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I once treated a broken leg on a dwarf hamster that weighed less than one ounce. They don’t make special dwarf hamster casts, so I had to really get creative, so I fashioned a splint out of paperclip. That experience has stayed with me because it reminds me that sometimes to get the best result, you have to think creatively and apply unusual solutions.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We don’t have anything significant underway that counts as “bleeding edge,” but we are starting to look at how to incorporate data from wearable technology into our existing AI, which could have significant implications for animal health and wellness.

How do you think this might change the world?

Incorporating historical and real time data from wearable into an AI can tremendously improve the ability to predict the urgency level of medical care for a specific pet. Moreover, it will in many cases greatly influence how we diagnose and treat animals.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Veterinarians are highly-trained, medical personnel treating pets. Technology like our teletriage symptom-checker app, does not give pet-owners license to avoid the vet or treat their pets at home. And, for vets, telemedicine is not a replacement for in-person pet treatment.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

In 2015, after 21 years in practice, I got an off-hours call from a family friend, whose dog, Bodhi, had suffered a mild seizure. My friend was on the way to the emergency animal hospital when he called. Based on preliminary information he gave me over the phone, I knew Bodhi was not in an emergency situation. I advised him to turn around and bring Bodhi to me in the morning. Bodhi turned out OK, and my friend saved probably hundreds of dollars by waiting until the next day.

That experience led to the creation of Petriage. I wanted to give all my clients the same 24/7 access to reliable health information, help them avoid unnecessary trips to the animal hospital and reassure them their pets are getting the care they need.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think COVID exposed some vulnerability in the veterinary industry. Vets are essential, but in many cases are asked to only treat urgent cases, and even then, they must do so while socially distancing. Those who hadn’t established telehealth already were clamoring for a solution. I am hopeful that vets are finally feeling some urgency to adapt to a more virtual environment. Their clients have come to expect it. I’m pretty confident in the future of telehealth.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We want people to really understand the benefits telehealth has on their practice. Of course I’ve integrated telehealth into my practice fully, and I try to serve as a case study and role model for other vets. Petriage is being offered to its members by the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, and our marketing partners are helping spread the word that remote pet care is compelling during this time of sheltering-in-pace. Because our product fulfills a real need, we believe it doesn’t require outrageous marketing.

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?

My amazingly super smart, resilient, loving, and beautiful best friend, business partner, and wife for 36 years, Mindy Stern. There are so many stories so it is hard to choose just one but we will go with this one.

My first year at Cornell vet school and it is all about anatomy. ow, I have a lot of strengths but acquiring new languages is not one of them and for me not knowing latin and, at the time, only basic english, anatomy was like learning a new language, especially knowing how to pronounce all these new words.

At night after a full day at the office and after our children were asleep, Mindy would record a tape for me, slowly enunciating these strange words from my anatomy textbook. We lived about an hour drive away from Ithaca, so when there was no snow on the roads, I would play the tape in my old station wagon and hear her voice saying, “ tibia, fibula, jejunum…” Not only did I learn the words, but I got such encouragement from her to succeed in school. She’s been my biggest supporter.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1.) In life you will fail way more often because you do not try then because you tried and you failed.

  • Because I would have had more confidence in myself much earlier in life.

2.) Most people underestimate how much they can actually achieve so they never reach their full potential.

  • Because more often than not you only get one shot at things.

3.) Maximizing what you can maximize and minimize what you can minimize and not waste mental energy on the variables you cannot control.

  • Because it allows you to live life with much less anxiety and more energy to tackle the things you need to tackle.

4.) Personal growth happens at the edge of your comfort level and it is also where the exciting and scary parts of life happen.

  • Because only by continuous personal growth, we can adapt to the ever-changing life and reality around us.

5. Most people promise more than they will probably deliver so make sure to have low expectations.

  • Because it is easier and much more pleasant to be pleasantly surprised by people then constantly disappointed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Often attributed to former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt but actually originated by Henry Thomas Buckle.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Veterinary medicine is a $19 billion industry in the U.S. Until Petriage launched its platform in 2015, there was no way for veterinarians to efficiently communicate with their clients and provide care remotely and after hours. Petriage’s platform, which is fully integrated with the practice management software that powers veterinarians’ clinics, addresses that need. We are scaling very rapidly, as COVID-19 social distancing restrictions have highlighted the importance of telemedicine solutions.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The Petriage social media accounts share a lot of great information about caring for pets, as well as just-for-fun pet content — everyone loves pictures of cute animals. You can follow us at:

· https://twitter.com/petriage

· https://www.instagram.com/petriage/

· https://www.facebook.com/Petriage/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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