With the push of a smartphone button, vets will be able to check online whether what they’re seeing in the field is unique to their area or part of a larger pattern, thanks to a new vet app and site. Web created by a group of Texas A&M AgriLife College.
The Veterinary Syndromic Surveillance System, VSS, website and app are now live and will provide veterinarians with a tool to access disease information and enter it into a central database, said Tom Hairgrove, DVM , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Livestock Veterinary Specialist at Texas A&M University. Department of Animal Science, Bryan-College Station.
Hairgrove leads a three-year project “Improving the Sustainability of Rural Veterinarians through Mentoring, Targeted Education, Telemedicine, and Disease Syndrome Surveillance,” funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The VSS website and app fulfills one of the stated objectives of this grant – to provide quality continuing education in production medicine and assist in real-time disease surveillance, thereby providing veterinary practitioners, students and technicians increased awareness of national and regional breeding. disease problems.
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Hairgrove said they’ve been working on the proof of concept for about six months. Only veterinarians can download the VSS app, which can be found in the Apple Store and can also be downloaded on Android phones. All information goes back to a server owned by AgriLife Extension.
A graduate student, Debbie Perry, who is also a compliance officer in the Department of Animal Science, helped create the tools. Karun Kaniyamattam, a postdoctoral research associate, did the artificial intelligence work. Both are in the Department of Animal Science.
Animal health regulatory agencies in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are involved in the project, Hairgrove said. The aim is to create a network of rural practitioners linked together through virtual reporting and diagnostic tools so that veterinarians in underserved areas feel more engaged and part of a larger group facing similar issues in productive agriculture.
The new app is populated by veterinarians, as well as the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Veterinary Technology Program. Senior veterinary students also use it to document records during their internships with private practitioners, Hairgrove said.
The difference between this version of the app/website and previous ones is that artificial intelligence will be able to pick up any indicators about disease trends or syndromes that might accompany a disease, Hairgrove said.
“Every day there is a map with flags, and we can look at all the counties by zip code to see the disease syndromes in any region. They build on each other,” he said. said “The central database will be mined using artificial intelligence to sort information and provide feedback to practitioners.”
Also, the old app required an iPad. But the new app allows everything to be done on the smartphone, and most information can be added in just a few minutes.
“The way we built this, vets can enter their notes for their own records, which are automatically sent back to their clinic and not shared with anyone else,” he said. “They can enter confidential information, and it doesn’t enter the database. Having spent a lot of time with the producers before developing this, we know that anonymity is a priority for them.
So the bigger picture is a website where vets can view their individual data or go to the map and see the syndromes that everyone has reported.
“They can notice that they’re seeing a lot of a symptom and find out if someone else is too,” Hairgrove said. “Then they can communicate back and forth on these issues. We hope we can get more people out of school and realizing the benefit of this.
Real-time information meets artificial intelligence
Hairgrove said new technology tools provide real-time information to veterinarians and state or federal regulatory veterinarians regarding the location and prevalence of disease syndromes in large animals.
Artificial intelligence will monitor this information and help create maps that flag different symptoms, allowing vets to develop a diagnostic plan based on current monitoring data.
“For example, let’s say we have a problem with open cows or prussic acid toxicity in cows,” Hairgrove said. “Some people might think these symptoms are happening because it hasn’t rained. With this application we can determine if the weather plays a role or if what is happening is an isolated case. »
The new technology initially targets early-career vets, he said. Often, young, early career veterinarians in rural areas practice in isolation and have limited communication with other veterinarians, nutritionists, reproductive specialists, or other groups that support food animal agriculture. ‘food.
However, they are the frontline practitioners and will be the first to encounter emerging, re-emerging and transboundary animal diseases, so what they see is very important.