In July 2012, the Canadian Business Journal featured LifeLearn®, an Ontario-based veterinary educational publisher and interactive new media developer. At the time, the Company operated in two segments: Veterinary Practice Solutions [Veterinary Communications and Practice Marketing tools and Corporate Solutions. It also had recently introduced a web and mobile based site, MyPetED, to help pet owners find basic pet health information quickly and easily.
Many aspects of LifeLearn® remain core aspects of the business. The Company still offers both divisional services and maintains its primary commitment to enhancing the lives of pets and pet owners through providing veterinary and wellness learning resources. Yet as explained by LifeLearn® President and Chief Executive Officer James Carroll, “We’re a company that’s always evolving. A lot can change in two years – much of it for the better!”
Veterinary Practice Solutions
LifeLearn®’s Practice Solutions division focuses on helping pet health professionals understand how to run and market their business more effectively. As a majority of veterinary clinics operate as independent practices, owners must maintain animal medical standards while also balancing the challenges of running a small business.
“Veterinary professionals need to have expertise in a multitude of different disciplines. They often require medical knowledge on a variety of different types of pets – from dogs and cats to horses and even exotic animals like iguanas or parrots. They also need to have knowledge in many different medical areas of specialty, including cardiovascular, oncology, nutrition, and dermatology to name a few. But all of this is really only a portion of what [a veterinarian] needs to know. Many veterinarians also need to become proficient in the basics of business ownership and operations. It can be quite the challenge,” says Carroll.
Today, the Veterinary Practice Solutions segment encompasses a vast assortment of different tools and software to help veterinary health professionals enhance their businesses. Services include website development, educational texts and webinars, online and mobile presence assistance, SEO and social media integration and optimization, reputation management and client education resources.
The Corporate Solutions segment of LifeLearn® provides highly customized digital development services for major health, diagnostic, nutrition and pharmaceutical companies across North America. Products and services range from sales enablement, training, operations support and marketing.
“Often, our corporate clients need assistance with effective communication around complex topics. This could be communication for the sales team to the target client, or even communication within the organization, such as between R&D and marketing,” says Carroll. “We offer several customized solutions, developed by a leading team of Biomedical Communications experts, which takes complex medical and scientific data, processes it, and presents it in a way that is understandable and marketable. We think of it as knowledge mobilization…making information effective and actionable.”
Other Corporate Solutions services include event management, mobile sales tools, e-learning solutions, and Stratus™ – a content management and distribution platform that, as an example, connects marketing professionals to their sales people on the front line through mobile and cloud-based technologies.
Stratus is a technology that LifeLearn developed to answer a need that was consistent across their corporate partners. By developing and then deploying engaging content through Stratus to the various target audiences, LifeLearn helps corporate partners increase the effectiveness of messaging, as well as gain better understanding of how content is being used to enable a more proactive approach to operational, marketing or sales initiatives.
Since its inception in 1994, LifeLearn® has welcomed positive change. It’s a company that focuses on continual development in all areas, including product, culture, and employee growth opportunities. It has adhered to its mission to provide animal health professionals around the world with knowledge and continued learning resources through the combined efforts of every team member.
As Carroll explains: “There are smart companies and there are healthy companies. Smart companies may have talented resources and great intellectual property, but they often struggle with internal silos and politics, sometimes creating barriers to effective operationalization. Healthy companies foster environments of trust, accountability, open collaboration and productive conflict. They focus on the people supporting the organization at all levels, and through that “smarts” follow and prosper. I’d like to think that we’ve become a healthy company – we focus first on our people and our goals, and that is the foundation that allows for sustainable growth.”
LifeLearn Sofie™, Powered by IBM Watson
It is through this focus on organizational ‘health’ that has allowed LifeLearn® to introduce its most recent – and perhaps most important – development thus far. In early 2015, the Company will launch LifeLearn Sofie™, a highly intelligent treatment support application that uses cognitive computing to deliver evidence-based treatment options. Sofie functions through web, tablet, and mobile platforms and provides support for veterinary practitioners of all backgrounds and experience levels. Powered by the world-renowned artificial intelligence computing system IBM Watson, Sofie has the ability to reference hundreds of thousands of pages of unstructured data, and deliver evidence-based treatment options for specific patient situations in a matter of seconds.
Carroll, who recently joined the IBM Watson advisory board in order to help further its development, explains: “Sofie™ is a revolutionary product that will expand the cognitive boundaries of veterinarians. Sofie is not a replacement for the veterinarian. In fact, Sofie will enable the veterinarian to use their training and skills more effectively by enabling instant access to the endless amounts of medical information that exists. And by doing so, we believe we will help improve the lives of pets and pet owners across the globe.
“We are extremely excited to introduce Sofie™ to the world, and guide the positive influence it offers to veterinarians, animal health industry organizations, and pet owners.”
Sofie™ aims to connect veterinarians with the medical and scientific information to best aid pets in need. The application “learns while you learn;” instead of utilizing a basic keyword search, Sofie™ understands the context of the query and the interplay between nouns, verbs, people, and places. The aim is that users will be able to, “interact with Sofie™ just the way [they] would with a colleague in the room.”
Industry organizations will also be able to learn from Sofie™ to discover which products veterinarians rely on most. They’ll also be able to engage with veterinarians through surveys and other interactive software, in order to gain measurable feedback on which products are considered most effective, which are most prescribed, and why.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Sofie™ is that it will evolve continuously. New features and functionality, such as diagnostic support, patient record integration, and media/voice integration, will be added. And through LifeLearn’s partnership with the IBM Watson Group, new evolutions in cognitive computing will be available to Sofie on an ongoing basis. This allows LifeLearn® to continuously monitor and alter its solutions and processes to best fit the users’ needs.
Here to Stay
The Company’s new corporate brand identity – which was introduced on December 12, 2014 – aims to solidify the relationship between LifeLearn(R)’s three pillars: Practice Solutions, Corporate Solutions, and Innovation while maintaining a core focus on the firm’s dedication to promoting pet health and wellness everywhere.
In a December 12th press release, Carroll stated, “For twenty years, LifeLearn has been committed to enhancing the veterinary community with educational and communication tools. Though we’ve evolved dramatically in our capabilities and scope of products, our branding has remained close to our roots.
“This rebrand more accurately reflects our evolution and unifies our value proposition across the wide spectrum of clients we serve, ranging from single doctor veterinary practices to large animal health corporations.”
Sofie(TM) is one example of how LifeLearn(R) intends to continue enhancing its presence in North America and eventually pursuing further international expansion. LifeLearn is continuously developing new technologies such as Stratus, WebDVM4, ClientEd Online and others, to provide engaging and effective solutions for animal health organizations, helping them to fully realize the potential of their business.