Leading veterinary medical associations release new telehealth guidelines for small-animal practice

AAHA and AVMA collaborate on recommendations to support integration of Connected Care

[Lakewood, Colorado; Schaumburg, Illinois; February 16, 2021]—Two of the veterinary profession’s most respected associations have collaborated on a step-by-step roadmap for how to effectively and efficiently incorporate telehealth into veterinary practices.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released the 2021 AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice, a how-to guide for empowering the whole veterinary team to embrace Connected Care, which utilizes digital technologies to enhance and support veterinarians’ relationships with their clients and care for their patients through improved communication, diagnosis, and patient monitoring. It includes client communication tools, as well as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to support diagnostic decisions and remote monitoring to provide more real-time information about how veterinary patients are doing.

The AAHA/AVMA Telehealth Guidelines for Small-Animal Practice are designed to supplement the AVMA’s overarching telehealth guidelines for the veterinary profession that were released earlier this month. The AVMA Guidelines for the Use of Telehealth in Veterinary Practice provide a clear path for implementing and optimizing the use of telehealth and planning recommendations for launching the service. They can be downloaded at avma.org/telehealth.

COVID-19 accelerated consumer demand for telehealth services and revealed new opportunities to more fully leverage the training and skills of all members of the veterinary team in the delivery of great patient care and client service.

“Our profession has been making much progress in seeing wider adoption of technology, especially during the pandemic, and the new AAHA and AVMA guidelines will help practices successfully integrate telehealth into their daily operations,” said AAHA Deputy CEO Janice L. Trumpeter, DVM. “When done right, Connected Care is an opportunity to more fully engage and utilize the skill sets of veterinary staff members, while increasing attention to customer service and ensuring that we continue to deliver high-quality medical care.”

“During the pandemic, a survey of companion animal practices reported a strong increase in the use of telehealth, from 10% to 30%,” said Dr. Douglas Kratt, AVMA president. “Telehealth has supported better and more timely communication with our clients during a time when maintaining physical distance has been critical to their health and the health of the staff in our practices. Beyond this immediate need, our experience with telehealth has given us insight into the opportunities remote technologies present for integrating AI into our diagnostic workups and ongoing monitoring of our patients, which ultimately will support more timely intervention when their health is challenged. These guidelines will help small-animal practices adopt telehealth in ways that make sense for their staff, clients, and patients.”

A key focus of these guidelines is the practical integration of telehealth into practice operations by identifying and utilizing telehealth “champions,” streamlining workflow, and successfully monetizing its use. Additional topics include considerations for device and platform selection, workspace, internal and external marketing strategies, and projections as to how the thoughtful adoption of technology will continue to enhance veterinary care.

In addition to the printed booklet, which is available for download, the guidelines include supplementary resources such as a quick reference sheet of common telehealth terminology. Veterinarians must follow both state and federal requirements for establishing and maintaining a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) when using telehealth to deliver veterinary services. Considerations around the VCPR are discussed in more detail in the AVMA Guidelines for the Use of Telehealth in Veterinary Practice.

“Every patient-centered phone call, email, and text is telehealth—so many veterinary practices don’t realize they are already doing it,” said AAHA Chief Medical Officer Heather Loenser, DVM. “These guidelines provide a framework and share some practical steps to use these technologies more efficiently and effectively.” 

“There are many services that veterinary practices provide on a daily basis that lend themselves well to the use of telehealth, such as post-surgical rechecks, hospice care, client education, after-hours triage, and remote patient monitoring, to name a few,” said Dr. Gail Golab, AVMA’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “Main goals for the adoption of telehealth include improving care for your patients, increasing access to your expert advice and services, and better and more efficient use of the entire veterinary team’s training and skills.”

The guidelines will be printed with the February 2021 issue of Trends magazine, and AVMA members with a small-animal practice focus will receive a complimentary printed copy with their February 15, 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA). The guidelines also are available online at avma.org/telehealth and aaha.org/telehealth.

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


About AAHA
Since 1933, the American Animal Hospital Association has been the only organization to accredit veterinary hospitals throughout the US and Canada according to more than 900 standards directly correlated to high-quality medicine and compassionate care. Accreditation in veterinary medicine is voluntary. The AAHA-accredited logo is the best way to know a practice has been evaluated by a third-party. Look for the AAHA logo or visit aaha.org.


About the AVMA
The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 97,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities and dedicated to the art, science, and advancement of veterinary medicine.