Telemedicine is simply using technology such as video, photo, text, to diagnose and treat illness. There is a lot of telemedicine in the human medical field, but it has not been used much by veterinarians. Why? The main reason is we (vets) are federally mandated to make all medical decisions within the context of a valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VPCR). What does that mean? A valid VCPR must have all the following elements:
1. The vet assumes responsibility for the health of the animal
2. The pet parent has agreed to comply with the recommendations of the vet
3. The vet has sufficient knowledge of the animal to make medical decisions on its behalf
4. The vet assumes responsibility for follow up care and adverse events
5. The vet keeps a record of all they do for the animal
As you can see the vet has a lot of responsibility in this scenario. The definition of item #3 has always included a “recent” in person physical exam or farm visit as part of the requirement to diagnose and treat illness
Enter Covid-19. Veterinarians are now being asked to do as little in-person work as possible to do our part to slow the spread. Thus, our in-person work has been limited to vaccines, life threatening illness, painful conditions, and euthanasia. Also, the FDA has temporarily relaxed the rules requiring a physical exam for every patient in order for medications to be prescribed.
What does this mean for you and your pet? It means if your pet has a minor illness (examples: skin or ear infections, diarrhea, urinary tract infections) we may be able to do a telemedicine consult and get you medications without you having to take your pet to a clinic or, in our case being mobile, us visiting your home. It means if you have a pet with a chronic illness on medication and it would normally be due for a check up or labwork (examples: thyroid medications, arthritis medication, incontinence medication), we may be able to help you get those prescriptions without those things. It means if you are in need of flea and tick or heartworm medications because SPRING IS GOING TO COME I SWEAR, we can help you get those too. It also means that there will be cases that are not appropriate for telemedicine and it will be my judgment as the doctor whether to proceed, recommend a physical exam, or recommend you be seen right away at a clinic.
We have teamed up with Anipanion to bring you telemedicine services. Their app is free to download and you can request either a video call or a chat. It allows us to save all communication to your pets medical record in our system. We are new to this too, doing a trial to see if we like it so I welcome your feedback! Stay home and stay safe everyone!