Vet AI, which launched Joii, its remote veterinary consultation service earlier this year, is claiming that vets who diagnose common dermatological conditions remotely are as accurate as those who see the patient in person.

The company is making the claim based on a £20,000 study it conducted with three dermatology specialists from three different clinics, in different parts of the country.

Trevor Hardcastle, Vet-AI’s chief data scientist said: "We have undertaken a small-scale trial of remote diagnosis of dermatology conditions by veterinary dermatology specialists in canine patients, which has resulted in almost perfect agreement. No significant evidence was found that veterinary dermatology specialists are measurably compromised in their ability to accurately diagnose common dermatology conditions by being remote from the patient."

Strangely, given the strength of the claim, its importance and Vet AI's obvious vested interest in the result, there was no other information contained within the company's press release. No mention of who the specialists were, nothing about the study design, and nothing about the basis on which the claim is made.

However, presuming the company meant Specialists not specialists, it would be very unusual if they had agreed for an announcement of this importance to be made without the evidence being reasonably robust. So it's probably worth suspending judgement until the study is published in full. 

Meantime, the company also says its own research into online diagnosis amongst pet owners has shown that more than 50% of people have avoided taking their pets to the vet for cost reasons, yet more than 65% have tried online self-diagnosis. Again, Vet AI doesn't reveal how many pet owners were asked, or how they were sampled. 

Vet-AI co-founder Sarah Warren said: "Things like dermatological issues are beautifully aligned to remote consultation because they’re visual so we can gain a wealth of information from images and distribution maps and easily recommend treatments.

"This needs to happen in a regulated, ethical and correct way with a view to improving animal welfare.

"The RCVS has a chance to ensure that people have access to quality vet help online in an effective way. They can do this, or they can allow them to continue accessing poor-quality advice. As a profession, it’s vital we respond to the needs of pet owners."

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