Today's Veterinary Business

FEB 2019

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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Page 19 of 71

Business 16 Today's Veterinary Business Business INNOVATION STATION For anyone paying attention since early 2017, the guide repre- sented a strong change in direction since AVMA's 2017 Final Report on Telemedicine. The report stated that without a veterinarian-client- patient relationship, telemedicine should not be practiced and any advice given should be in general terms, not specific to an individual animal, diagnosis or treatment. What happened in the 21 months from January 2017 to September 2018? Taking a closer look at the Final Report on Telemedicine helps us understand the issue more clearly. There are three points here: • The nomenclature around telehealth and telemedicine. • The spirit of the document ver- sus the letter of the document. • The impact all this has on practitioners. Defining the Words A lot of confusion surrounds use of the terms "telehealth" and "tele- medicine." Despite all attempts to clarify the language, the average veterinarian still needs clarity. As a result, most people tend to shy away from the entire category for fear of reprisal from state boards. The accepted language is that telehealth involves communicating through digital means about an an- imal's health. Telemedicine is a sub- category that involves diagnosing a condition and prescribing treat- ment through electronic means. This distinction is important be- cause the veterinary-client-patient relationship is necessary in order to diagnose or prescribe medication. It's a fine-grained distinction, but an important one nonetheless. So, the debate revolves around whether someone can establish a VCPR electronically. Most states in- terpret the examination criterion of a VCPR to be a hands-on exam, but more and more states are looking at changing the language to be in line with the American Association of Veterinary State Boards' Model Act of Practice. More on that below. What adds confusion is the evolving nature of the language. Now, instead of talking about telehealth and telemedicine, most people speak about virtual care. How this fits in remains to be seen. Why all this is important is because the Final Report on Tele- medicine focused on telemedicine specifically and not on telehealth more broadly. The document stat- ed numerous times, "Only be con- ducted within an existing VCPR," but said little about the practice of telehealth more generally. The entire spirit of the document was An important moment passed us by without much fanfare. At the Connexity conference in September 2018, the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association jointly produced a how-to guide on telehealth. "The Real-Life Rewards of Virtual Care" outlines step-by-step instructions for implement- ing telehealth tools, what to consider in terms of technology and regulation, and case studies as models for use. Get on board or get out of the way Whether you support it or not, telehealth is here to stay. By Aaron Massecar, MA, Ph.D.

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