AVMA helping veterinarians take on telemedicine

Published on August 30, 2017

The AVMA is providing guidance and soon a toolkit to help veterinarians take on telemedicine in practice.

On July 21 at its regular annual session in Indianapolis, the AVMA House of Delegates passed a policy on telemedicine and accompanying revisions to the Model Veterinary Practice Act, which is a model for state practice acts.

Dr. Lori Teller, District VIII representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, said ahead of the regular annual session of the House that the AVMA has spent more than two years thoughtfully and thoroughly considering the potential impacts of telemedicine on the public and the profession. She updated HOD members on the Association's activities in the area of telemedicine.

In 2016, the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel completed a comprehensive report on telemedicine. In 2017, the Association solicited feedback on the report from members, stakeholders, and the general public. The "Policy on Telemedicine" draws on the report and the feedback.

"Telemedicine is a tool that may be utilized to augment the practice of veterinary medicine," according to the policy. "The AVMA is committed to ensuring access to the convenience and benefits afforded by telemedicine, while promoting the responsible provision of high quality veterinary medical care."

Per the policy, "Given the current state of technological capabilities, available research, and the current state and federal regulatory landscape, the AVMA believes that veterinary telemedicine should only be conducted within an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR), with the exception for advice given in an emergency until that patient can be seen by a veterinarian."

According to language added to the Model Veterinary Practice Act in 2003, "A veterinarian-client-patient relationship cannot be established solely by telephonic or other electronic means." Much of the telemedicine policy offers guidance on the VCPR in the context of telemedicine.

The new policy also states, "Telemedicine regulations should be harmonized across the nation and strongly enforced to protect patient and public safety."

In a separate action, the House revised the Model Veterinary Practice Act to reflect the new telemedicine policy.

The telemedicine policy notes that federal law requires a VCPR for prescribing drugs in an extralabel manner for animals and issuing veterinary feed directives. Dr. Teller said in her update that the Food and Drug Administration currently does not allow for the VCPR to be established by electronic or telephonic means.

According to the policy, "The AVMA recognizes that future policy in this area will be informed by evidence-based research on the impact of telemedicine on access to care and patient safety."

The AVMA is developing an extensive toolkit and guidelines for members who are interested in using telemedicine in practice, Dr. Teller said. The toolkit and guidelines will include information on policies, laws, and regulations; potential applications; an FAQ; descriptions of various service models; and guidance on monetization. The goal is to have the first phase available by September and the remainder by June 2018.

The AVMA also is in the process of notifying pertinent associations and government agencies about the new policy.

Related JAVMA content:

Defining relationships (June 1, 2017)

Advisory panel report offers guidance on telemedicine (March 1, 2017)