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2021 AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice

Incorporating Connected Care

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Abstract

AAHA and the AVMA are very pleased to present these jointly produced Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice in response to member requests.

They are designed to support the AVMA’s Guidelines for the Use of Telehealth in Veterinary Practice, which can be found at avma.org/telehealth. Understanding how COVID-19 accelerated consumer expectations for on-demand and virtual services in every aspect of life, a Task Force of experts was convened to develop this content and ensure its relevance for veterinary practices. The result: a “how-to” resource offering step-by-step, ready-to-implement recommendations to better integrate Connected Care (telehealth) into small-animal practice. Topics include considerations for technology and platform selection, external and internal marketing strategies, and a look at how new technologies have the potential to improve patient outcomes. How to identify a Telehealth Champion, streamline workflow, and monetize services are also discussed. Throughout, references are made to components of telehealth, including teleadvice, teletriage, telemedicine, telemonitoring, and teleconsulting (see Figure 1). For additional resources, visit the resource center.

Establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is not discussed within this document. For information about state-level VCPR requirements, please contact your state board of veterinary medicine. Veterinarians must follow federal VCPR requirements for extralabel drug use and issuing Veterinary Feed Directives.

Introduction

Telehealth is not something that’s coming—it’s here! And the truth is you’re already doing it, whether you’re currently using video technology to connect with your clients and patients or not. Every phone call, email, and text is part of telehealth. Automating prescription refills or sending a radiograph for a second opinion—telehealth. Electronic transfer of medical records—telehealth.

What most practices don’t have, however, is a well-thought-out approach that streamlines processes to make Connected Care seamless for staff, clients, and patients. We understand that even thinking about telehealth can be exhausting these days, but to remain competitive it’s a must.

That’s where this resource can help, by offering step-by-step outlines to follow. It will take you from assessing your needs to considering technology products (including platforms), and from developing workflows to creating marketing messages. Naturally, we hope you will read this cover to cover, but you can also choose which sections are most relevant to you. You can return to a topic when you have questions, or review others as needed. Whenever you see this symbol lightbulb.png you’ll find helpful tips from our experts.

And there’s something for those of you who have already embraced telehealth and its many components as well. No matter how far along you are in integrating Connected Care, there’s always a next step to consider to improve the health of your patients, your relationship with your clients, and the sustainability of your practice.

These guidelines were prepared by a Task Force of experts convened by AAHA and the AVMA. This document is designed as a resource to provide veterinary teams in small-animal practice with information regarding implementation of telehealth/“Connected Care” into their practices. These guidelines and recommendations should not be construed as dictating an exclusive protocol, course of treatment, or procedure. This content is not necessarily complete and may not be appropriate for every practice situation. Advances in veterinary medicine or practice management may cause information contained herein to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate by various veterinary or other professionals. This resource is not a substitute for legal or other appropriate professional advice. Practitioners must comply with laws and regulations at the federal level as well as local and state laws and regulations where they are licensed to practice veterinary medicine. Users should contact their own legal counsel or advisors with respect to the use of this work in their state prior to implementation. Neither AAHA nor the AVMA may be held liable for damage resulting from the application of this information. This information is provided “as-is” with no warranty or representation, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. AAHA and the AVMA are not responsible for any inaccuracies, omissions, or editorial errors, nor for any consequence resulting therefrom, including any injury or damage to persons or property. AAHA and the AVMA shall be held harmless from any and all claims that may arise as a result of any reliance on the information provided.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, and Merck Animal Health have supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice and resources through an educational grant to AAHA.