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College Council sets standard on telemedicine

April 04, 2017

The Council of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario approved a new standard regarding the use of telemedicine in the delivery of veterinary medicine in Ontario.

“With advancements in technology, the public can have improved access to veterinary medicine. This standard supports innovation in the delivery of safe, quality veterinary medicine in Ontario,” said Dr. Marc Marin, president of the College.

The professional practice standard, approved by Council in March, defines telemedicine as the delivery of veterinary medicine using information and communication technologies where the veterinarian and the patient are not in the same physical location.

“The College’s expectations of veterinarians remain the same whether they are delivering service in-person or through telemedicine. The College is actually one of the first regulators in North America to support the establishment of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) via telemedicine,” said Jan Robinson, Registrar and Chief Executive Office at the College.

A VCPR exists when the veterinarian has been retained by the owner of the animal; when the veterinarian and the client agree as to the scope of services to be provided to the animal; and also when the veterinarian has advised the client that services will only be provided in accordance with the standards of practice of the profession. The VCPR is maintained by the veterinarian having recent and sufficient knowledge of the animal. The VCPR is the foundation of effective veterinary medicine and animal care.

“The standard also expects that a veterinarian will use his/her judgment to determine whether telemedicine is appropriate to each specific circumstance. The need for a physical examination in order to make an appropriate diagnosis will continue to be essential in many cases. As well, drugs cannot be prescribed through telemedicine alone,” said Robinson.

The College initially established a position on telemedicine in 2015. The policy was revised and posted for public consultation this winter. The Professional Practice Standard on Telemedicine is available on the College’s website.

The College protects and serves the public interest through the regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine.  Accordingly, veterinarians are licensed, facilities are accredited, standards and policies are developed and maintained, and an investigations and resolutions process is available.  The College licenses