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College consults profession and public on guidance for telemedicine services

13 February 2017

On Monday 13 February 2017 we launched a consultation asking for the views of the veterinary and veterinary nurse professions, in addition to those of animal owners, on the use of telemedicine in veterinary clinical practice.

Dog owner with tablet

Telemedicine can be defined as any clinical healthcare service that is provided using remote telecommunications services, for example, video-call services such as Skype, wearable technology for pets (similar to a Fitbit) and other online consultation services.

The aim of the consultation is to receive feedback to help the College develop an appropriate regulatory framework for such services in the veterinary sector. Our current Code of Professional Conduct and supporting guidance is generally concerned with face-to-face provision of veterinary services.

The consultation, which is in the form of an online questionnaire, will consider issues such as who is responsible for veterinary care if it is provided remotely, how ‘under veterinary care’ is defined in the context of the telemedicine delivery of services, the potential risks as well as opportunities for improving animal welfare that may arise out of new technologies and the appropriate regulation of veterinary services provided directly to clients using new remote technologies.

We are also looking for the views and experiences of animal owners in terms of what they feel the impact, benefits and issues around the use of telemedicine may be.

For those animal owners who take part in the consultation we will be asking about issues such as who is responsible for providing care for animals if a service is provided remotely via technology, the risks and benefits of using technology versus face-to-face provision and remote diagnosis and prescribing.

Nick StaceNick Stace (pictured), our Chief Executive, said: “We want the UK’s veterinary surgeons to be at the forefront of innovation and to be making use of, and developing, new technology to extend the reach of veterinary services and thereby improve animal welfare.

“However, while the adoption of technology can greatly benefit veterinary services, we also need to develop a regulatory framework that takes into account the questions it poses, for example, in areas such as remote diagnosis and prescribing, to ensure that animal health and welfare is the foremost consideration.”

David Catlow, Chair of the RCVS Standards Committee that approved the consultation, added: “What we are looking for in this consultation are comments that will help inform a new position for the College on the use of telemedicine. There are questions that need to be answered around the principles of using telemedicine and we hope that we will get the views of a broad range of the profession.

“I would strongly encourage all members of the profession as well as members of the public to engage with this survey so that we can build a better picture of how this technology is currently being used, how it might be used in the future and how we can best regulate it.”

The consultation questionnaires will be available to complete for six weeks from Monday 13 February 2017.

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