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Sunday Business Page: VetNOW

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KDKA's Jon Delano spoke with Dr. Apryle Horbal, the CEO of VetNOW, about the organization's efforts to help people and their pets.

Video Transcript

- This is the Sunday Business Page with John Delano.

JON DELANO: Good morning. I'm John Delano. Welcome to another home edition of the Sunday Business Page. Our special guest today is Dr. April Horbal, a veterinarian who is also the founder of an organization called VetNOW. Doctor, welcome to the show. Good to have you here.

APRIL HORBAL: Thanks, John. It's great to be here. So let me ask you a little bit about VetNOW. This is an online effort to gather veterinarians to help folks, I think. Do I understand that correctly?

APRIL HORBAL: Yes, that's a great way to describe it simply. Absolutely. It's all about creating communication and redistributing expertise to everyone that needs it for their pets, their farm animals, even some wild animals.

JON DELANO: Well, don't we have enough veterinarians in our local area here in Pittsburgh?

APRIL HORBAL: So unfortunately, we don't at all. Locally, nationally, internationally. Locally, I founded a veterinary hospital in the South Hills about four years ago, and struggled to recruit veterinarians to join my staff. Specialists in dermatology, neurology, cardiology, were very hard to find. Even our competitor hospitals in the area that were more established and had some of those specialists, people were waiting two months for appointments for their pets.

Likewise, around the country, only about 12% of specialty jobs will be filled this year. And even for general practice vets, so your regular family veterinarian, there are almost two jobs available for every veterinarian in the country. So really, we're struggling to provide veterinary care to all of the animals that we have, the pets that are like our family members, and the farm animals that are very important to our livelihood.

JON DELANO: We all have, or many of us have cats and dogs, and I guess I never really thought that a veterinarian broke down into all these different specialties. But I gather we do, and people want them when it comes to their pets. Pets are family members. So how do you use the internet to connect me with my dog, if I have an issue with my dog or my cat, what happens?

APRIL HORBAL: So it would be your veterinarian, mainly, that would be controlling this communication. If your veterinarian identifies a problem that they would like a second opinion on, or that should be referred to a specialist. If they diagnose cancer or a heart murmur, or something that requires a complex surgery, they're able to reach out to a veterinarian that we have available on our VetNOW platform that's board certified in one of 18 different specialties.

JON DELANO: Wherever they are in the world.

APRIL HORBAL: Yeah, exactly. We have some as far as Hong Kong, actually. And now we're very, very careful. We credential all of them. They're all graduates of veterinary schools in the US, they're all board certified by the appropriate organizations here in the US or in Europe. But they can be located anywhere. In fact, our chief medical officer for my company even works from London. So it's a fantastic way to get all this expertise where it's needed most.

JON DELANO: Now, if I, as a pet owner, want to talk to the specialist directly, do I have the ability to do that, or do I have to go through my vet?

APRIL HORBAL: Not right now. So because of the way that laws are situated, to really help make sure your pet still receives the best care possible, you can get some general information from a specialist, but you still need a vet at the end of the day, for example, if you're working with a cardiologist, to be able to perform an EKG, or a cardiac exam of the heart with an ultrasound. Things like that, you still need a vet to have their hands on your animal.

I can see technology advancing one day to the point where that's maybe not necessary, but we're not there yet.

JON DELANO: Well, this really sounds fascinating, and I think it's great. You guys started this-- you're in South Point, am I right?

APRIL HORBAL: Yes, exactly. Yeah, and really, during the COVID pandemic, we've even expanded so you can talk to your veterinarian from home, through VetNOW. So that does exist. If you're isolating, if you're staying at home, that part happens too.

JON DELANO: Well, Dr. April Horbal of VetNOW, thank you so much for being with us today. We really appreciate it.

APRIL HORBAL: Thank you. This was great.

JON DELANO: And thank you for joining us on the Sunday Business Page. If you have a suggestion for a guest, get in touch with me at JDelano@KDKA.com. Have a great Sunday, everybody.