The field of veterinary medicine is ever-changing, with new ideas, technologies and treatment methods being developed on the regular. One relatively recent concept that’s gaining in popularity (especially given the current pandemic situation) is telemedicine. That is, treating patients virtually, usually via live video conference.
If this is something that’s piqued your interest and you’d like to learn a little more about it, we’ve rounded up a few of the main benefits this option can have for your practice as well as answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that may help you decide if it’s right for you.
Benefits of Telemedicine
There are quite a few upsides to offering telemedicine for yourself, your clients and your patients. First, from a business standpoint, you can increase revenue by serving clients who might not otherwise bring their pets in for care. That’s extra money in your pocket.
Second, from a client experience perspective, virtual visits enable pet parents to provide their animal companions with the care they need without having to leave their homes.
Thirdly, from a patient care standpoint, with telemedicine, you can treat animals that might not otherwise receive much-needed medical attention. A great example of this is cats, 52% of which the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study revealed do not receive regular veterinary care. With the option of telemedicine, this percentage can be greatly improved.
And lastly, by enabling client to connect remotely with you, as their veterinary provider, you’ll be able to nurture that sense of trust and loyalty, which will go a long way toward keeping your client retention numbers high.
Are there any legal restrictions to offering telemedicine services?
Veterinarians are generally allowed to offer telemedicine services as long as they have already established a Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). It’s critical to point out, however, that each state’s veterinary practice act guidelines and regulations vary. If you’re considering telemedicine as a service for your clients, your best bet is to check with your state licensing board first before proceeding.
What makes telemedicine different from medicine in general?
While the standard of care is the same, there are certainly a few limitations with medicine that’s delivered virtually, such as the inability to physically touch the patient. Provided you use a video connection, however, you should still be able to see and therefore visually examine the patient.
What equipment is needed for telemedicine?
Virtual consultations are made much easier thanks to today’s widespread use of digital technology. For instance, most smartphones, tablets and laptops have audio/visual capabilities built right in, making it simple and seamless to connect with clients remotely.
What types of services are commonly offered via telemedicine?
As long as you have a VCPR in place and you’re comfortable assessing the patient virtually, a wide variety of services can be performed via telemedicine. These may include, but are not necessarily limited to: general wellness checks, post-surgical follow-ups, after-hours care, and hospice. Obviously, you should use your best judgment and handle things on a case-by-case basis.
Are veterinarians allowed to charge for telemedicine services?
Provided there is an established VCPR, you can assess a fee for virtual services. How much you charge for this type of service is up to you, but the AVMA has created some pricing models you may find useful (membership is required).
How do I get compensated for telemedicine services?
Again, as long as you’ve verified that you can legally offer telemedicine, how you choose to collect your fee is up to you. Most vets use a third-party payment app, such as Venmo or PayPal, but you should choose whatever you and your clients feel most comfortable with.
What types of telemedicine services can be provided in the absence of an established VCPR?
Without a VCPR, you are treading on thin ice and should be very careful not to engage in any activity that could be perceived as diagnosing or treating patients’ conditions. General advice may be acceptable, but again, this is dangerous territory and you should therefore proceed with caution. Checking with your state licensing board is strongly advised.
Do vets providing telemedicine services need additional insurance coverage?
Because vets are expected to provide the same standard of care to all patients, regardless of whether that care is delivered in-person or virtually, additional liability insurance is typically not required. That being said, it would be wise to check with your insurance carrier first to make sure you are adequately covered before proceeding.
For forward-thinking vet clinics, telemedicine could potentially be a game-changer. If this is something you may be interested in, be sure to do your homework first to makes sure you will remain in compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations. Once you’ve got the green light, you can start reaping the many benefits of this service for your practice.