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The New Plumb’s Digital: Behind the Scenes

[Update February 2016: Plumb's iOS and Plumb's Android apps are available in the app stores!]

I’m proud to announce that 2015 is set to start with a techy bang!

Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs launched this month as the new digital way to access the ubiquitous Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook.

In the following article, I will introduce you to this new digital resource but I won’t be offering a disingenuous attempt at an unbiased review. After countless hours working with the developers, Dr. Plumb, and the Brief Media team behind it, that is quite literally impossible.

Instead, I’d like to offer a behind-the-scenes look at Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs.


I’m leading with a bit of necessary full disclosure: VMD Tech readers should know that I’m freshly employed by Brief Media. This is in addition to my work as an ER vet (no, I don’t plan on leaving practice).

Last year I was approached about a new secret partnership between Brief Media and Dr. Donald Plumb, author of the essential Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook. I was asked to serve as an adviser to the new project that would become the official digital edition of Plumb’s.

At first I was skeptical – like you, I know Brief Media as the publisher of Clinician’s Brief and Veterinary Team Brief. I respected their work as among the best in the industry.

But I was left with two questions: What is a journal publisher doing building digital tools for veterinarians? And what made them think they could pull this off?

SEE ALSO: The Veterinary Trade Publication Survival Guide »

While digital access to Plumb’s is a true practice need, previous attempts left much to be desired (you know them all – Plumb’s on Kindle, Palm Pilot, and most recently Plumb’s Online).

Visions of another minimally functional website offered in a textbook’s jacket filled my cerebral cortex. I couldn’t help but think that this was just going to end as another missed opportunity to help veterinary medicine.

But then I started thinking: Plumb’s is uniquely important to us. What other medical field has a textbook that is relied on universally by every professional, no matter your practice type, field, or specialty? What other single resource would you always want in your pocket (like that time you visited Great Aunt Bobbie and her vigilante cat was accidentally overdosed on alprazolam)?

As I learned more about Brief Media, the unique vision they had for this resource, and their genuine concern for getting this right for veterinarians above all else, I realized they were on to something.

I jumped on board and gave it everything to hopefully shape it just as we would want it in practice. The result is Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs, which officially launches this month.

Nothing Has Changed, Yet Everything Has

With Plumb’s, we could have easily embarked on today’s common recipe: outsource to a faceless team of overseas developers, make the book into an app as fast as possible, and sell it online for an annual subscription while updating content every few years.

Instead, we began by reimagining digital access to a textbook from the ground up. Along the way, we used iterative revisions which emulate the careful peer-review process that makes Clinician’s Brief the trusted resource that it is.

We devoted an entire in-house team, carefully selected a high-quality development firm out of Texas, and meticulously spent the next 12 months poring over every possible decision.

At each step, the correct input was sought from technology gurus, Don Plumb himself (who is involved weekly), and most importantly, Brief Media’s network of in-the-trenches veterinarians.

SEE ALSO: Top Techy Veterinary Pharmacology Resources »

My goal as one of the veterinary voices was to be sure that Plumb’s content remained in its familiar formatting while still leveraging the benefits of having it as digital resource.

As such, we had to make sure that the technology enhanced, not inhibited, access to Plumb’s essential knowledge.

When it comes to technology, veterinary professionals favor practical over flashy any day of the week. Our mission was to give veterinarians that practical access to Plumb’s at the point of care, wherever that care happens.

When I step back and look at what has resulted, Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs feels like a modern take on a familiar resource. In a way, it appears simple, and that’s a great thing.

Meet Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs

I’ll summarize Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs as having six breakthrough items:

  1. The new entire content from Plumb’s biggest update ever – the 8th edition

  2. Built as a website that looks and functions great on any device

  3. Built to save time, connecting you to the info you need exponentially faster

  4. Continuous drug updates from industry experts (no more waiting for Plumb’s editions)

  5. An aggressive plan for helpful features and improvements

  6. Plumb’s apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.

I’ll admit that access to the resource is a bit of a paradigm shift. We’re used to purchasing new editions every 2-3 years, after all.

Instead, this is a modern take on essential resources, offering digital access for an annual subscription fee. Broken down, Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs costs 6 to 7 dollars per month depending on your subscription type. And if you are a veterinary student, for the first time you get Plumb’s for free.

This model, which could ultimately prove seminal for our industry, allows us to keep the resource forever in our pocket and the Brief Media team to keep it forever up-to-date, through both technology and content. These updates are not just limited to new drugs but extend to updating existing drug information when important research comes to light.

The book is of course still available, but even as it comes to print in February 2015, it will already be outdated since edits and novel content have been added to Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs.

Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs will be accessible anywhere you have an internet connection at first. But we’re not stopping there. Apps that allow true offline access (think: in the barn) are now available for iOS and Android.

Along with this, we’re laser-focused on building new and innovative features such as modern search enhancements, linking within monographs, note-taking within the resource, drug news alerts, client information sheets, and other pharmacology-related tools.

All of this translates into better resources for animal caregivers and better care for animal patients.

Get started at


About the Author

Dr. Caleb Frankel is an ER veterinarian, author, speaker, and entrepreneur. He currently divides his time between two roles: emergency veterinarian at VSEC, a 70-doctor referral hospital in Greater Philadelphia, PA (USA) and the founder of Instinct Science, a new animal health company helping the world’s state-of-the-art veterinary practices streamline their care through medically-driven invoicing and thoughtful automation.

He served as Director of New Product Development at Brief Media for 4 years where he lead the development and launch of products such as Plumb's Veterinary Drugs and New York Vet. Follow Dr. Frankel on Twitter @VMDtechnology.

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