A beloved dog or cat may receive impeccable care at one veterinary practice – but how will the next vet know what treatment your pet was given? A start-up founded by three Western Australians is filling a major gap in animal healthcare and easing the burden for overworked vets.
When veterinary radiologist Dr Steve Joslyn worked for a telehealth radiology company, analysing scans sent to his home office, he would sometimes receive X-rays of a dog accompanied by the medical history of a cat.
It wasn’t long before he realised this was a systemic problem. Pets’ health data was vulnerable to human error and even falsification, and it was also not being shared among the diverse players involved in animal health: vets, pathology labs, emergency hospitals and microchip registries (all Australian pets are required to be microchipped).
Joslyn discussed his thoughts over a beer with his old university friend Ross Wyness, a commerce graduate who had been working in fashion tech. Joslyn had also got to know, through start-up circles, Anton Tjea, a technology whizz. The result of these connections was Vedi, a vet-tech company now shaking up an industry not usually associated with innovation.
“Generally, you could say that veterinary healthcare is about 10 years behind human healthcare,” says Wyness. “We’re actually flipping that and creating a universal health record that follows a pet around.”
Transforming veterinary care
Pet patients of Vedi-participating practices have all their health data – treatments, tests and vaccinations – linked to their existing microchip. A scan of the chip reveals their medical history. Vedi has even enabled lost pets to be reunited with their owners.
The information is trustworthy since human error has been eliminated and the data verified using blockchain technology. For instance, vets giving a vaccination scan the vial with their smartphone, and the vaccine name, batch number and expiry date, along with the place and time of administration, are all recorded to the pet’s Vedi health record and locked to the chip.
Similarly, blood samples are placed in barcoded tubes that are linked to an animal’s microchip, along with the pathology lab’s results.
It’s a far cry from the practice of hand-writing labels on specimen tubes or entering data in a computerised veterinary management system – data accessible only to staff at that clinic. To the relief of pet owners, Vedi has also banished hard-copy vaccination certificates; instead, owners receive a link to their pet’s updated vaccine status.
The fully integrated health record is a win-win for pets, and for the industry struggling with a dire shortage of vets amid a steep rise in pet ownership, says Wyness.
The faster and more efficient workflow means vets can spend more time delivering care, he says. “And, if you end up in an emergency hospital at 2am, they can access critical information such as your pet’s vaccination history, any recent tests done, allergies and chronic diseases.”
Digitally stored data becomes even more important if an owner is not with their pet at the veterinary practice.
Through Vedi, participating vets have established that about one-tenth of pet microchips are unregistered. That can be swiftly rectified.
A crucial injection of cash and advice
As they pondered their business model, Wyness, Joslyn and Tjea knew that three core components of the integrated data system would be required to appeal to vets: microchip registrations, vaccination recording and pathology testing.
With seed funding, they had developed an early prototype and trialled it in half a dozen vet practices. They wanted to build on those three features, particularly the pathology element, but lacked the momentum to attract the additional investment needed to grow the business.
In April 2021, Vedi was awarded an Accelerating Commercialisation grant of $477,973, under the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme. It enabled the company to engage more software developers to build out the dashboard and apps now used by vets.
“[The grant] was a lifeline that got us through that trough of sorrow that start-ups face,” says Wyness. “It enabled us to fast-track the product development, which was critical. We would really have struggled without the Accelerating Commercialisation grant to bridge that gap.”
The start-up also received guidance from i4 Connect Commercialisation Facilitator Natasha Teakle, who saw Vedi as an obvious fit for the program. “There was a lot of potential for disruption in this industry, and they had a strong value proposition, which was the verifiable data record linked to a pet’s microchip,” she says. “They also had a strong customer pool and a really strong team with different skillsets.”
Prospects for global growth
Vedi is now in 50 veterinary practices in Western Australia, including some corporate groups, and it has partnered with microchip registries and pathology labs. Now, the company wants to branch out into eastern Australia and overseas markets. It has already been adopted by a number of UK vet practices.
Expansion will be facilitated by a recent injection of $3 million from two multinational veterinary health venture funds. Wyness believes it unlikely that Vedi would have attracted those funds without going through the Accelerating Commercialisation service.
“You come out of that process with a plan that’s been critiqued and validated that you’re going about things in the right way,” he says. “Had we not done the heavy lifting through the 18-month Accelerating Commercialisation grant period, I think we would have been in quite a different situation trying to raise that money.”
As Vedi seeks to tap into the global market, it is also pondering what new data to add to its platform. The possibilities are almost unlimited. The company is poised to integrate with crematoriums, enabling pets’ deaths to be recorded and sparing bereaved owners the distress of, for example, receiving a vaccination reminder.
A pet owner herself, Teakle sees Vedi as a “no-brainer” for vets. “It saves time and money,” she says. “The vet system really needed something like this.”