By Warren Briggs, DVM
Anyone who knows me on even a limited basis understands just how much of a technology nerd I am. Indeed, my 'alternate career path' if the Ontario Veterinary College didn't pan out would have undoubtedly been somewhere in computing. I remember translating the class notes onto my Amiga 500 computer - partly as a way to go over the information again and also because my penmanship is so abysmal I wouldn't have been able to read anything mere days after lecture! I became the 'official note taker' of OVC Class of 1992 - if anyone missed a class they could always relay 'on Briggs' notes'. I'd run off copies on a 24-pin bi-directional Okidata dot-matrix printer on that paper you'd have to tear the strips off the sides that had the roller feed holes. How different life would have been with plan B!
I've always felt the drive to bring the latest in technology to veterinary medicine. As a company, CAPNA certainly represents an assemblage of some of the finest & most technologically advanced practices in the nation. In my own practice group we have embraced a number of advances over the years. We were one of the first few veterinary hospitals in New Jersey with a website. As if YouTube wasn't enough of a way to burn time online, check out archive.org/web which has taken billions of 'snapshots' of web pages over time - it's like an 'internet time machine'. Our first website was launched in July of 1997 and I personally registered the domain ocvh.com and created our 'web presence'. We also got our first ultrasound machine in the 90's and added VOIP phone systems, intranet company sites and surgical technology like minimally invasive surgery, radiosurgery and tissue sealing & stapling devices.
My geek side coupled with my current obsession of flying quadcopters or 'drones' (I had 4 until this weekend but that's another story), I thought the 4/1/16 edition should address the fact that we would soon be using small drones to transport medications, office supplies and even small amounts of food between our 4 practice locations in Ocean County. The staff would be trained on how to replace batteries and where the landing pads would be established at each practice (checkout the full email below).
Suffice it to say a couple folks were 'got' and several simply had a good chuckle at Briggs' creative thinking.
The CAPNA group – not knowing about our traditional 4/1 email shenanigans – provided me several 'fish on'. The story had legs and as recently as last month (September!) our President Dr. Dennis Law called me personally to ask about the validity of some story he'd heard that "you were going to be using drones to transport materials between hospitals."
That was a big fish indeed! I always let everyone off gently – a catch and release kind of guy – but the mere fact that so many people thought this was a reality was a surprise to me. Should it have been? How far away are we from the practical application of just such technology? If our sister practice 6 miles away finds itself out of a vaccine, Sharpies or Ms. Jones went to the wrong location to pick up her prescription…why not send the drone over?
Well, truthfully, at present it is illegal. But the fact is BIG companies with deep pockets are actively investigating how to make this a reality (Amazon and Google being among the most notable). And it's my considered opinion that the use of drone technology in veterinary medicine is not that far off. Guess who'll be one of the early adopters?
Our group of hospitals has been selected to start a pilot program that will help us manage inventory management between our 4 locations. Our new business partner is backing the program financially and may consider rolling this out across all hospitals nationwide pending our results so I am asking for everyone's maximum effort to ensure the success of our program.
Michele Scran has been managing inventory transfers through Impromed and physically driving product between our locations. When exploring other options with our business partner, my own experience with UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) makes our hospital group the perfect 'test ground' for this program.
We plan on establishing a dedicated high-end UAV (more commonly known as a 'quadcopter' or 'drone') to move inventory between locations. Almost anything from medications, syringes, office supplies, even small amounts of pet food (not a 40# bag!) can be placed in the vehicle which will be programmed for autonomous flight between the locations.
The drone itself will have a dedicated landing area at each location. These vehicles are very smart - equipped with GPS guidance and optical sensors that will allow them to safely travel between our hospitals. The landing zones will be established by a 3rd party company who will be making landing pads and recharging stations for the drone. .
OCVH: pad to be installed at dog walk area
FVH: rear lot
NPVH: rear lot
BVH: back parking lot
Our staff will have to know how to load/unload the bird as well as how to connect to the charging dock at the landing pad. There will be some one-on-one training sessions later this month. Again there will be no 'piloting' required as you'll simply have to press the 'launch' button to send the UAV to it's next location.
OCVG has always been at the forefront of technology and this initiative will continue to solidify the legacy of our hospital group as one of the most advanced veterinary businesses in the country.
Thank you for your cooperation- we need to give her a name (all ships/cars/planes are female BTW) so I welcome your suggestions!
Warren Briggs, DVM
Director of UAV Systems
Ocean County Veterinary Group
Dr. Briggs is the Hospital Director for Ocean County Veterinary Group, a CAPNA practice.