Coalition of veterinary groups launch telehealth initiative

Coalition for Connected Veterinary Care

The Coalition for Connected Veterinary Care launched July 30 at AVMA Convention 2022 in Philadelphia. The founding members are the AVMA, Veterinary Study Groups, and Merck Animal Health along with more than 30 other veterinary organizations and companies that have signed on so far.

The coalition will develop education and resources to help veterinarians integrate telehealth into their practices in ways that strengthen relationships with their clients and improve patient care. It also aims to build awareness of the opportunities that telehealth presents to enhance practice success.

Further, the coalition will advocate for regulatory actions that support the use of telehealth, while simultaneously respecting the integrity of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship and ensuring the safety of veterinary patients and the confidence of their owners in the quality of veterinary care provided.

Use of telehealth in the veterinary profession, including telemedicine, increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, adoption has slowed in both human and veterinary health care as in-person visits have resumed, and many veterinary practices are not taking full advantage of available tools, according to Dr. José Arce, 2021-22 AVMA president.

“Proper use of telehealth holds great potential to improve access to veterinary services, enhance the medical care we provide for our patients, strengthen and support our relationships with our clients, and improve the efficiency of our veterinary health care teams and the services we deliver,” said Dr. Arce in an announcement by the CCVC.

Dr. Arce
Dr. José Arce, 2021-22 AVMA president, said the AVMA has created numerous tools to support veterinary practices in the use of telehealth. He said veterinary teams need to be made more aware of these tools and how they can be adjusted to be useful to each clinic.

Along with the AVMA, Veterinary Study Groups, and Merck Animal Health, the following groups are on the coalition’s growing list of members:

  • American Association of Avian Pathologists
  • American Association of Bovine Practitioners
  • American Association of Equine Practitioners
  • American Association of Swine Veterinarians
  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
  • Alaska VMA
  • Florida VMA
  • Hawaii VMA
  • Iowa VMA
  • Michigan VMA
  • Minnesota VMA
  • Mississippi VMA
  • Missouri VMA
  • Nevada VMA
  • North Carolina VMA
  • North Dakota VMA
  • Oklahoma VMA
  • South Carolina Association of Veterinarians
  • Texas VMA
  • Vermont VMA
  • Virginia VMA
  • Washington State VMA
  • American Heartworm Society
  • Catalyst Council
  • Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association
  • National Veterinary Associates
  • Animal Health Institute
  • Boehringer Ingelheim
  • Elanco
  • Covetrus
  • AmerisourceBergen/MWI
  • Midwest Veterinary Supply
  • Guardian Vets
  • Televet

Veterinary telemedicine is most effective and safest—for patients, clients, and veterinary practices—when used to maintain a VCPR that has already been established via an in-person examination, said Dr. Link Welborn, CEO of Veterinary Study Groups, one of the founding members, in the announcement.

“We’ll be looking to coalition members to help develop and share resources that will support veterinarians in seamlessly integrating telehealth into their practices while recognizing the importance of the VCPR,” he added.

Dr. Welborn
Dr. Link Welborn, CEO of Veterinary Study Groups, at the launch of the Coalition for Connected Veterinary Care on July 30, said when it comes to whether there should be an in-person examination prior to a telemedicine visit, “the reality is statutory and regulatory requirements establish a minimum standard of care and there is no diagnostic tool more valuable than a hands-on examination.”

Dr. Christine Royal, associate vice president for Merck Animal Health’s companion animal and equine business, said that Merck is a founding member of the Coalition for Connected Veterinary Care because the coalition aligns with the company’s mission to advocate for animal care and well-being through quality veterinary services.

“From ensuring veterinarians have the right tools and resources in place to support telehealth to its maximum potential to utilizing our policy teams to advocate for veterinarians in their local community, the Coalition for Connected Veterinary Care will foster better examinations and client relationships, while producing a more all-inclusive approach to support continuity of patient care,” Dr. Royal said.

Dr.  Royal
Dr. Christine Royal, associate vice president for Merck Animal Health’s companion animal and equine business, said at the launch, “With the digital age, telemedicine has emerged as one of the greatest opportunities and challenges in medicine, both human and veterinary. Telemedicine is an important tool in our toolbox. For our veterinary profession, we must properly implement it and have it regulated with the health and well-being of the patient first and foremost.”

More information about the coalition is available at avma.org/ConnectedCare. Those interested in joining the CCVC should email telehealthatavma [dot] org.

The AVMA currently offers a number of resources on telehealth and connected care, including “AVMA Guidelines for the Use of Telehealth in Veterinary Practice” and case studies, at avma.org/telehealth.

A version of this article appears in the August 2022 print issue of JAVMA.