August 18, 2020 By Dr. Patrick Welch 4 min read

Veterinary medicine is a 45 billion-dollar industry in the U.S., experiencing rapid growth driven by increasing pet ownership, the growing social perspective of pets as family members, and the advancement of technology for treatment and care. The result is an increasing need for veterinary professionals with new skills reflecting the demand for both gold standard care and new technologies that improve diagnostic and treatment options. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians (nurses), and all of the other members of the veterinary care team must continually improve their existing abilities and build new skills to meet client expectations and patient needs.

This necessitates the question: how do we know whether veterinary professionals possess the most up-to-date competencies to meet the needs of their profession? Like many other professions, the veterinary field needs an innovative approach to identify, organize, track, and share the skills and competencies of its labor force. A system allowing for this type of transparency in veterinary healthcare training would provide a way to ensure professionals are keeping pace with their evolving profession.

Creating a network to transform talent management

New veterinary graduates are coming out of school with a growing disconnect between their coursework and the skills needed to be “practice ready”. Additionally, experienced veterinarians, and other members of the care team, have a hard time documenting and sharing with potential employers their aggregated competencies accrued over time from their practice experience. Those employers, in turn, lack a reliable and scalable method for mapping competencies within their organizations to both understand their employee skills and demonstrate skill growth over time.

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As a provider of emergency and specialty veterinary care across the U.S., Ethos Veterinary Health represents a microcosm of these industry challenges. Across the Ethos organization, we didn’t fully “know what we knew” and lacked competency mapping to fully understand the skills of our care team. Without the proper framework to serve as a baseline, it was impossible to track the learning and growth of team members, and in turn the return on investment or business impact of Ethos’ investment in learning and development. More broadly, our learning subsidiary VetBloom, a SaaS-based continuous learning ecosystem for the veterinary industry, was seeking ways to shift to a more robust competency-based framework both for continuing professional development and formal accredited training programs.

Exploration of potential solutions to these underlying challenges led to a collaboration with others in our profession, and ultimately to the creation of the Veterinary Learning Credential Network (Vet LCN).

What makes a blockchain-based network the right approach?

We recognized the need for a shift in focus to skills and competencies, allowing the learner to perpetually build their educational record, demonstrate their skills, and deliver on the promise of lifelong learning. There has been strong alignment around this concept within the veterinary profession, and in fact, veterinary academic leaders have been working for years to create a roadmap that would allow a transition to competency-based curricula.

The challenge was how to create a framework that would allow that shift to occur? The solution had to be flexible enough to be appropriate for both formal academic credentials as well as post-graduate learning, be able to map skills and competencies, and have the technological rigor to be utilized as a single source of truth for sharing validated and searchable learning credentials, skills and certifications. This broad set of requirements drove us to envision a blockchain-enabled solution, and IBM’s expertise in the application of blockchain to talent transformation led to our initial conversations.

As our work with IBM evolved, the concept of “blockchain as a team sport” became central to the process, and it became clear that to bring our vision of a learning credential network for the veterinary industry to fruition, we would need to create an ecosystem around the idea.

One of my first conversations towards the realization of this ecosystem was with Dr. Jason Johnson, a close friend and colleague in the veterinary profession, and the Dean of the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine. Jason is an innovator in the veterinary learning space and brought a key perspective from the academic side of veterinary medicine, creating valuable balance and synergy with my private practice-based experience at Ethos.

We spent the next 18 months building an industry consortium, consisting of key stakeholders representing academic institutions, private practice groups, membership associations, continuing education providers, employers, learners, and regulatory and licensing bodies. Only through the creation of such a robust ecosystem could the Vet LCN be successful.

The realization of an idea

It has been incredibly rewarding to watch a nascent idea grow and evolve to become an all-encompassing initiative, bringing so many members of the veterinary community together. At the center is a vibrant energy centered on creating positive change around learning and growth in our profession, and we see Veterinary LCN as a key technology to enable this change. I think we all recognize that opportunities to be involved in this type of transformation are rare, and I, for one, feel fortunate to be taking part in this journey.

Be sure to read my next article where I share additional insights into the development and evolution of our industry ecosystem.

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders, academic experts and partners, to share their opinions and insights on current trends in blockchain to the Blockchain Pulse blog. While the opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM, this blog strives to welcome all points of view to the conversation.

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