The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners recently amended or adopted an impressive number of regulations governing the practice of veterinary medicine that may be of interest to other examining boards across the country.

In October, 2014, the Board voted to publish the proposed rules in the Texas Register for comment which are now available on their website, as adopted.

Notably, the amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct address issues that affect veterinarians and consumers across the country.  Other states may be interested in considering similar amendments in their states, if they are not similarly addressed in existing regulations.

Two regulations address the manner in which complaints are brought to the Board, clarifying the responsibility of licensees regarding when, what, and how they are required to report certain activity to the Board, and provisions which prohibit licensees from harassing or retaliating against a complainant or witness to a complaint, including another licensee who may be providing an opinion.

22 TAC 573.81 requires licensees to report to the Board if s/he has reasonable cause to suspect that

(1) the ability of another licensee to provide veterinary, veterinary technician, or equine dental services safely and reasonably is impaired by chemical dependency; or

(2) another licensee generally poses a continuing threat to the public welfare.

Such report to the Board must be in writing, signed, and include the identity of the licensee and any other information the Board may require.

A licensee reporting an impaired professional to the peer assistance program satisfies this reporting requirement.

22 TAC 573.5 prevent a licensee from harassing or retaliating against a complainant or witness to a complaint, including another licensee who may be providing an opinion.

22 TAC 573.22 was amended to clarify how the standard of care provided by veterinarians in the “same or similar circumstances” will be compared.  The existing regulation required “licensees to exercise the same degree of humane care, skill, and diligence in treating patients as are ordinarily used in the ‘same or similar circumstances’ by average members of the veterinary medical profession in good standing in the ‘locality or community’ in which they practice, or in similar communities.”

The amendment clarifies the long-standing policy and interpretation that the phrase ‘same or similar circumstances” includes consideration of the type of practice the veterinarian is practicing. This amendment also clarifies the long-standing policy and interpretation of the word ‘community’ to refer to a geographic community or locality and not a demographic community such as a type of veterinary clinic. This amendment makes clear the Board’s long-standing policy that a review of a veterinarian’s standard of care will include a comparison to similarly situated veterinarians; such that, an urban veterinarian in a shelter practice would be compared to the standard of care for other urban veterinarians in shelter practice.

With the expansion of shelter medicine and care, this clarification is important to insure that animals are provided at least an adequate standard of care even if they are housed in a shelter environment.

Another amendment permits veterinarians within the same practice to refill prescriptions for patients of the practice, even if the original attending veterinarian is not present,

as long as the two veterinarians are within the same practice, clinic, or hospital; the veterinarian who wrote the original prescription has an established veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with the specific animal; and the veterinarian refilling the prescription has access to the VCPR veterinarian’s current medical records for that animal.

The Board also addressed the cost of making copies of medical records for clients, for which a reasonable fee is permitted, but can be hard to collect after the records are released. Amendments to this regulation

allows veterinarians to withhold copies of patient medical records until the requesting client pays the reasonable fee. The amendment requires the veterinarian to provide the client with the amount of the fee within five business days of the client’s request for documents. Once the client verbally or in writing accepts the charges, the veterinarian must prepare the records within ten business days and then deliver them upon payment. Records may not be withheld for payment of the reasonable fee in acute or emergency situations.

The Board commented that at least one of these rule changes “will provide greater efficiency for providing veterinary services to the public, while still protecting the public,” which is consistent with their mission and purpose to protect the rights of consumers seeking veterinary care and treatment for their animals.