Dr. Barbara Blasko, a jumping athlete and horse owner, knows about the pitfalls of paper veterinary records from an unfortunate personal experience in 2013.
“The horse I had was being shipped to a horse show, and when he got there he didn’t have his vaccine record. The paper wasn’t there, so he wasn’t allowed to enter the showgrounds,” recalled Blasko, who lives in Mira Loma, Calif., and competes primarily on the West Coast. “The solution at the time was to do another vaccination to produce another piece of paper. I was on a plane and couldn’t be reached, so they revaccinated the horse. He was a very sensitive horse who, when we routinely vaccinated him, he needed some banamine and some time off, because he’d get hives and a fever.
“This time, he’d just recently been vaccinated to go to that horse show, and the re-vaccination in such a short time made him pretty darn sick.”
Blasko, a board-certified emergency medicine physician who also has a degree in biomedical informatics, saw the opportunity for a solution to help other horse owners and managers, and also prevent the scenario she and her horse endured. Her quest to find a solution that offered convenience and security led her to launch Electronic Vet, also known as eVet.
Electronic Vet, based in Temecula, Calif., stores a horse’s veterinary records on a cloud-based platform, so vaccination records, test results, Coggins paperwork, and more are easy to maintain and share with the horse’s owner, trainer, barn manager, veterinarians, and competition managers.
The integration with competitions is key, Blasko points out. After all, if show management had been able to see the vaccination records for her horse after his paperwork was lost back in 2013, he would have been spared the revaccination and subsequent bad reaction.
“We work with most show managers to create custom portals for them to log in and check your horse’s vaccine records directly,” she explained. “We are also developing a list of all USEF shows that will allow our users to submit their vaccine records directly to the show from the eVet portal.”
We sat down with Blasko to find out more about her deep roots in equestrian sport and how combining her love of horses and medicine is helping to revolutionize equine veterinary record-keeping for owners, trainers, and competition managers.
Riding has been a lifelong passion for you since you were a child in Manhasset on Long Island in New York. How did you get started in the sport?
You know how it goes: you go to a birthday party and there are some ponies, you get on and walk around while your dad holds you. Then you tell him to let go, and then you’re hooked! I remember getting on this little pony and telling my dad to let go of me so I could walk around on my own, and after that the rest is history.
Were you the lone horse-crazy person in your family or did you inherit your love of horses?
My mom grew up on a farm in New York, and they had horses that they kept in a field and rode. So she rode a little growing up, but it wasn’t structured or serious. When I was maybe five or six I had that pony ride, and by age seven I was begging for lessons. They were once a week, and I learned to walk, trot, and canter and then jump crossrails. From there, it progressed to summer camp on Long Island and then riding a couple of times a week.
When I was 14, I was lucky enough to get my own horse, Myrtle. She was an Appendix Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred. She was a good horse. She stayed with me through most of my junior years. We didn’t have unlimited funds, and it was, ‘This is your horse, and you have to get her through all the ranks.’
Growing up on Long Island in the ’70s and ’80s was very fortunate. There was a lot of land and there were a lot of horses and open spaces. There were also a lot of horse shows you could go to for just one day. I feel blessed and lucky to have grown up in that environment and at that time.
Now I live in Southern California. I don’t have horses on my property; I board a horse at a private training facility in Murrieta. I show in the adult jumpers.
What can you tell us about your horses?
I have a horse that I do the low amateur jumpers on now. I got her this year. Her name is Dior, and she’s an Oldenburg.
I also have Balouja, whom I competed a lot, but she had an injury. We bred her, and she has a foal who’s a yearling now. Thankfully, Balouja is back in action now!
You’re both a physician and an equestrian, which set you up to spot the opportunity to found eVet. Can you tell us what sparked you to do it?
Part of my medical training was that I got involved in the field of biomedical informatics. When I was working with Kaiser Permanente, I helped them with a lot of their transition from paper workflow to computer-based workflow. When I first started practicing medicine, everything was done on paper. Throughout my career, we’ve transitioned to everything being digital, on a computer. I helped Kaiser develop a lot of their workflows to get patient care from paper-based records to digital recordkeeping. I became interested in informatics and went back to school to get a degree in biomedical informatics.
That kind of sparked my interest in seeing how I could help the equestrian world with some of the advancements that we’d had on the medical side, in terms of making things digital and a little easier to keep track of.
This was around seven years ago, and one of the things that was kind of a hot topic at that time was vaccine records. Around that time, the USEF hadn’t made any rules around what vaccines were required, and the horse shows were predominantly making their own rules. That led to horses being way over-vaccinated, because every horse show would make its own rules, and competitors would need to comply in order to get their entries done. I wanted a way for the recordkeeping to be easier, more streamlined, and accessible to everybody.
It was more than just convenience. I talked to veterinarians who said some owners were having their horses vaccinated as many as 19 times a year just to comply. I thought that was not good for horse welfare.
Did you face any resistance to the idea of going digital with equine health records?
People in general are very resistant to change, but in human medicine we were forced to go to digital records. You’d have to pay penalties to the government if you didn’t have a digital record. There’s nothing like that in the horse industry, and I’m not saying there should be. But people are going to take the path of least resistance, and it’s pretty easy to just scribble something down on a piece of paper. It takes a little more time to get on a computer and enter some information and get your vet to enter some information. But when you look at the overall picture of the way technology is moving and the way everything is moving with apps and phones and digital products, I was willing to stick with this. I don’t give up on things easily and was prepared to stick with this until people understood the value of it.
What do you tell someone who might be hesitant to load their horse’s health paperwork into a cloud-based platform, either because they think it sounds time-intensive or because they’re worried about information security?
A little bit of upfront time and energy spent entering information one time saves you a lot of time in the end, because ultimately you don’t have to reproduce that vaccine record every time you go to a horse show. We store it digitally in the cloud. It’s stored on Amazon Web Services, and it’s HIPAA-compliant, meaning all the information adheres to human health care standards, so it’s a very secure platform, in terms of keeping the information safe.
I have it set up that way because I understand the requirements of how to do that, and, to me, it just made more sense to make it as secure as possible.
What are the first steps a user has to take to get started in transitioning to eVet?
The partnership with USEF makes it super-easy, because entering your horse’s USEF information pre-fills a lot of the data fields that are required in order to create the horse profile on the e-vaccine certificate. Essentially, it’s putting in the horse’s name and their USEF number and creating your horse profile. You have the option of adding pictures, which increases the identity component and the security, making sure it’s the right horse. Once you create the horse profile, you lock it so that the information can’t be changed. You can’t go back and edit it two months later. That’s done so that when the vet enters the vaccine information, you can make sure those vaccines belong to that horse. If you do enter something incorrectly for a horse, you can contact us and we can help you change it, but the main reason behind the lock is so someone’s not entering a horse falsely, having the vet enter the vaccine records, then going back and substituting in a different horse.
Once you have set up your horse profile, your veterinarian enters the horse’s vaccine information. Once that’s done, the vaccine digital certificate is created. It shows the horse identification and all the vaccines that were given. That document lives in the cloud and can be printed as needed.
We have partnerships with a lot of shows where they have secure log-ins and can view all that information digitally. So when you go to horse shows, the information is available to horse show management, and they can check the records without even having to print a piece of paper.
We also have an integration system with an online entry company called Show Management Systems, so when you do your digital entry you can create your vaccine record, and your vaccine record and your entry get submitted to the horse show all at the same time.
How does this work on the veterinarian’s side?
We do work with vets independently, where they sign up. They enter the vaccine information for the horses they’re vaccinating. It’s very easy for the vets. It doesn’t cost them anything. They create their account, and say they vaccinate 20 horses in a barn. They can select all the horses in that barn, select the vaccine they gave, and click one button that populates all the vaccine information for those horses. So we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for vets.
We partner with a software company called HVMS. They’re a practice management program for veterinarians. We have a direct integration with them, so the vets that use that program don’t really have to do any manual entry; the vaccine record is created automatically.
Being a physician and dealing with electronic medical records and facing challenges with medical entry information, I wanted to make this process as easy and streamlined as possible for veterinarians, as well as for owners.
Why do you feel this move to digital recordkeeping is positive for the horse industry?
Paper gets lost, and it can get damaged. I was at a horse show in Sacramento a few years back and found an equine passport just lying in the dirt. It was an FEI show, and I was walking my horse and there it was on the ground. So things get lost. They can be falsified, too. It’s very easy to write inaccurate horse information or vaccine information on a piece of paper, and that can lead to huge problems with biosecurity. For example, if someone falsifies EHV-1 vaccine information and their horse gets sick and gets other horses sick, there’s no traceability to help in determining what the source horse was.
What else should people know about eVet?
We wanted to create a simple process that’s easy for everyone to use. People sometimes look at electronic documents and get overwhelmed because they think it’s going to be cumbersome or complicated, but we’ve done a lot of customer feedback. That’s helped people understand that it’s easy and that the upfront time you spend is worth it, because you’ll spend less time in the long run.
We also have a dedicated sales manager who can help people set up accounts and who can work with people one-on-one.
Learn more about eVet at electronicvet.com.