Advisory panel report offers guidance on telemedicine

AVMA Board of Directors invites member input on proposals
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Telemedicine is a tool of veterinary practice, not a separate discipline within the profession, and must be conducted within the veterinarian-client-patient relationship as defined by the laws and regulations of the relevant state authority. Without a VCPR, telemedicine should not be practiced, and any advice provided should be general and not specific.

So states a much-anticipated final report on telemedicine and veterinary medicine released by the AVMA in January.

Nearly two years in the making, the 42-page document addresses a range of issues concerning telemedicine and veterinary medicine, including the potential benefits and legality of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating remotely via the internet and other telecommunication technology. The report was prepared by the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel and presented to the Board of Directors this past December.

“The (advisory panel) understands that in the future as technologies and medicine advance, in-person examination may be among options, but not the only option, to satisfy VCPR requirements,” according to the report, which also defines telehealth, telemedicine, and mHealth (mobile health).

The public wants access to veterinary care, and the veterinary profession needs to take advantage of the opportunities telemedicine provides us.

Dr. Lori Teller, District VIII representative, AVMA Board of Directors

The AVMA Board discussed the report during a Jan. 12 meeting in Chicago, along with a proposed AVMA policy and strategy on telemedicine. It was noted during the Board’s deliberations that the Practice Advisory Panel developed the report with input from numerous stakeholders, including AVMA PLIT, which weighed in on the potential liability for veterinarians who evaluate, diagnose, and treat remotely via the internet and other telecommunication technology.

Dr. Lori Teller, the AVMA Board’s District VIII representative, assisted the advisory panel in its work. “The public wants access to veterinary care, and the veterinary profession needs to take advantage of the opportunities telemedicine provides us,” Dr. Teller said. Telemedicine is not without risk, she continued, explaining that veterinarians are responsible for the advice they provide electronically.

“If you use telemedicine, you will be held accountable the same as if you were providing an in-person exam,” Dr. Teller said.

The Board postponed action on the proposed telemedicine policy and strategy until its April meeting so the AVMA House of Delegates and AVMA members can review the report and comment on the document. The report (“Telemedicine: Report of the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel (2016)”) is available online here. Comments should be emailed to Telemedicineatavma [dot] org (Telemedicine[at]avma[dot]org) by March 16.

Delegates considered the panel report during the HOD’s regular winter session Jan. 13-14 in Chicago. The House approved a recommendation that the Board consider including Section 8.1.a of the report in the Model Practice Act. That section states the following: “Any advice given via any medium outside an established VCPR must be given in general terms, not specific to an individual animal, diagnosis, or treatment. Telemedicine shall only be conducted within an existing VCPR, with the exception for advice given in an emergency care situation until that patient can be seen by or transported to a veterinarian. The veterinarian who establishes the VCPR is responsible for and has the liability to manage the case and must have a license in the state that the VCPR was established. In a vast majority of states, any consultant who is giving advice to the veterinarian of VCPR does not have to be licensed in that state. Communication to the client must go through or be controlled by the veterinarian who has established the VCPR.”

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA panel to scrutinize telemedicine (Nov. 1, 2015)