A new survey shows that veterinarians love their online access. But they don’t necessarily want to talk to YOU when they log in. And they often don’t like your surfing habits, either.

Results of the so-called Digital Clinic Study commissioned by the AVMA and AAHA  were released in February at the Western Veterinary Conference. The goal was to find out if vets are online and if so, what they’re doing.

No, it doesn’t ask about our recreational usage (and thank God for that—I don’t need to know how much porn my colleagues surf), it only gets into what professional use we put our fingers to as we click away at our keyboards.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, 88% of veterinarians reported that the Internet facilitates online research into scientific topics. 64% said it makes their work and practice more efficient and 61% said it translates into better care for animals. Though I fail to understand the gap between  the 88 and 64%, not to mention the gap between 64 and 61% (why wouldn’t it help animals if that’s your work?), it’s clear the Web does something for our profession.

“Well, duh!” you may well be thinking right about now. In fact for some of us it’s a shock to learn that 100% of the 2,000 veterinarians, hospital managers and vet students didn’t agree the Internet didn’t enhance their work on behalf of animals. Maybe they’re too young to remember what a reference librarian is? Or, more likely, they’re too old to want to discover the charms of life in etherspace.

Yet this study did have some exciting news to contribute. As I alluded to in my intro to this post, it seems veterinarians love the Internet for research. Some even use it to make their practices run more efficiently. But few find solace in being directly attached to their client base through these novel means—or in knowing their clients are feverishly clicking away after their appointments.

Only 44% said the Internet helps them communicate with their clients (yes for me). Only 32% said it makes their practice more profitable (yep, that’s me, too). All that, despite the fact that 69% said their hospital offers a Website!

Some of this muddiness may be cleared up by the following observation:  67% of veterinarians have clients bring them information gleaned from websites. But the majority of veterinarians believe the information only serves to confuse you. Moreover, we really don’t want to be any more accessible to you via our email inboxes. That’s a whole can of worms we ain’t ready to crack open.

The upshot? Lots of vets have the impression that the Web is a mixed bag in which the negative items outweigh the positive ones.

While I’ll agree that I’m one of those vets less likely to give out her email address than her cell phone number, there’s no doubt that my life as a vet would be less profitable for the animals in my care than without it. How could I ever look up doses of new meds at the drop of a hat, source opinions on a condition instantly or research new products without relying on drug reps?

It’s therefore my view that any veterinarian who actually uses the Web and claims it doesn’t help them practice medicine or claims that confusion by owners actually hinders their work more than it helps is either doing something wrong or hasn’t taken the full measure of the power at their fingertips.

Sure, the Web sometimes has a way of making some clients look at things all askew. But it’s not usually hard to explain the discrepancy between my view and a crackpot website’s. Redirecting them to a reputable site (if they need something in black and white) is easy enough, right?

So here’s where I ask you: Did you ever stress your vet with an Internet horror story or attempt to disabuse him/her of a heartfelt belief after reading something online? Here’s your chance: Show us veterinarians what we really have to fear from the Internet.