The AVMA is proposing an updated “Model Veterinary Practice Act” to its House of Delegates in the near future. Included in the draft, which is not legally binding by any state unless specifically incorporated into the state laws, are issues involving the provision of veterinary care via telephonic or other electronic means. As reported by AVMA in its JAVMA Nov. 1, 2018 publication,
The AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act continues to state that veterinarian-client-patient relationship ‘cannot be established soled by telephonic or other electronic means’ . . .
As decided in Hines v. Alldredge, 783 F.3d 197 (5th Cir. 2015), “the requirement that veterinary care be provided only after the veterinarian has seen the animal, at a minimum, rational: it is reasonable to conclude that the quality of care will be higher, and the risk of misdiagnosis and improper treatment lower, if the veterinarian physically examines the animal in question before treating it.” At least in Texas, the requirement for in person examinations by veterinarians of their patients must be conducted before diagnosis and treatment ensues.
Other issues included in the AVMA’s model act include:
- Permitting a veterinarian to provide care to an animal during an emergency in the absence of a valid VCPR;
- Incorporation of federal laws, including definitions and provisions of FDA’s Veterinary Feed Directive;
- Rejection of a farrier exemption;
- Discussion of the use of the term “veterinary nurse” and
- The ability of lay personnel to provide veterinary massage services.
The model act will be presented to the AVMA’s House of Delegates for a vote this January. Even if adopted, the model act is not legally binding, and its use will be individually determined by each state’s veterinary examining board.
Interestingly, in the same JAVMA publication, the results of a study of “Owner satisfaction with use of videoconferencing for recheck examinations following routine surgical sterilization in dogs” was reported:
Owners were equally satisfied with recheck examinations performed by videoconference and in-clinic appointments. Owners of dogs in the telemedicine group indicated that their dogs were less afraid during the virtual appointment, compared with what was typical for them during in-clinic appointments, but the difference was not statistically significant. Most owners who completed a postsurgical recheck examination by videoconferencing preferred this method for similar appointments in the future.
The fact is, telemedicine has been utilized by veterinarians since telephones have been available. Clients calling in after-hours have consulted with veterinarians across the country who have provided advice and direction when immediate in person examination was not deemed to be necessary, based on the information provided by those clients.
With the increasing deficiency of veterinarians available to service certain rural animal producers and owners, it seems inconceivable that such remote, digital provision of veterinary services would not be permitted.