Hollard Insurance-owned Pet insurance specialist PetSure has bought a 40% stake in veterinary “telehealth” startup Vetchat.
Founded in 2015, Vetchat allows customers to consult with a nationally registered vet via text or video. It has around 13 vets available on its platform and is recruiting more.
PetSure CEO Alexandra Thomas says the product is particularly important under the current social distancing rules.
“[It] improves access to veterinary advice via technology, leading to better pet health outcomes,” she said. “Many people are turning to telehealth services for their own medical needs at this time – and now they can do the same for their pets without leaving their home.”
The Federal Government said last week that Medicare will now cover all telemedicine calls to encourage fewer in-person interactions as countries worldwide strive to combat COVID-19 infections.
“People want instant, personalised service delivered on their devices, and are adopting of telehealth as a viable alternative to in-person doctor visits,” Vetchat CEO Dr Claire Jenkins said. “People will want the same option for their other family members – their pets.”
PetSure underwrites and administers the pet insurance propositions of more than 25 brands, including IAG, AAMI, Woolworths, RSPCA, Pet Barn, Guide Dogs, Medibank, Bupa and HCF. It accounts for almost 10% of all the vet expense paid for by Australian pet-owners.
Ms Thomas says Vetchat has the added benefit of helping vets by offering them a flexible way to supplement their earnings, particularly if they find their work decreasing right now.
Demand for veterinary telemedicine is growing fast around the world, especially in mature markets such as UK, US and Sweden, she says.
A PetSure representative and an independent director will sit on the Vetchat board.