Telehealth: increasing access to veterinary services while preserving high-quality care

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President’s Column: Dr. Mike Topper

What can you do when your clients’ busy schedules make it difficult for them to attend a postoperative follow-up examination? How can you help when they have difficulty bringing in an elderly, sick pet for a recheck appointment?

Dr. Brian Evans and his team at Coastal Animal Hospital in Encinitas, Calif., enhanced patient care and made things easier for clients by offering telemedicine services for postsurgical follow-up and hospice care.

Dr. Evans’ services are an extension of—not a replacement for—evaluation and care provided at the hospital. He and his team always establish a baseline assessment of the patient during an in-person examination. After that, they can use videoconferencing to assess the pet’s general condition and determine next steps.

Offering telemedicine consults allows the veterinary team to engage with their clients more frequently and get more accurate assessments of how patients are doing in their home environment. Their clients appreciate the flexibility telemedicine offers.

“Telemedicine is a pathway to make it easier for clients to adhere to their medical care instructions while allowing the clients to better manage their time,” says Dr. Evans. “Our use of telemedicine allows us to meet high consumer expectations while enabling the health-care team to provide patients and clients the highest level of care.”

Dr. Evans’ story is not unlike others we have heard at the AVMA. As this technology brings both challenges and opportunities to the practice of medicine, you have reached out to us seeking guidance and answers.  We are leading the charge to address the issue so that members like Dr. Evans are well-supported and primed for success.

The AVMA’s Telehealth Resource Center, unveiled in January at our Veterinary Leadership Conference, offers a wealth of information including answers to frequently asked questions about veterinary telehealth---questions like “What’s the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?” and “Do telemedicine services require special liability insurance?” It explains how the veterinarian-client-patient relationship fits into telehealth. It offers steps to implement telemedicine programs successfully in your practice. And it describes and compares a variety of existing service models so you can customize programs and services to fit the needs of your own patients, clients, and practice.

Take on Telemedicine with AVMA GuidanceThe resource center is an example of the AVMA’s commitment to ensuring access to the convenience and benefits afforded by telehealth, while also promoting the responsible provision of high-quality veterinary medical care. The AVMA will be unveiling expanded telehealth resources at our annual convention in July that will provide even more guidance for those interested in using telemedicine in practice.

Finally, it is worth sharing with you that a future case study will focus on the AVMA’s Reaching UP program, which is working toward piloting a telemedicine component. The goal is to increase access to veterinary care to underserved pets through videoconference surgical rechecks following the delivery of high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter services. We look forward to reporting on the results of the Reaching UP pilot once they become available.

In the meantime, I encourage you to learn more about telehealth and our work on this issue by visiting the AVMA Telehealth Resource Center at


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