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Use of communication technologies in delivering veterinary services

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Ratification Date: 01 Jul 2013

Policy

In using information communication technologies, veterinarians should ensure that they and their staff are trained and competent in the use of these technologies and that the control over and the quality of transferred information is of a high standard. Clients should be advised about the technology being used, its limitations and any issues regarding confidentiality.

Background

There has been a rapid development of communication technologies in recent years and the uptake by individuals and businesses in their daily lives is projected to increase.

Telephone, fax, the internet and video conferencing may be used to transfer clinical information between veterinarians, specialists and pathologists, with practices becoming more advanced and widely used. These technologies can be helpful in facilitating expert opinion, for example, for examining radiographs and digital photographs, electrocardiograms, case notes, ultrasound or endoscopy records in a timely and cost-effective fashion. However, there is potential for mistakes in diagnosis and treatment when there is no direct contact with the patient or client, or the clinical material examined.

Guidelines

Guidelines should be observed for the use of the internet and other communication technologies:

  • Direct physical examination of a patient by a veterinarian and contact with the animal’s carer are central to quality veterinary care. This applies to both primary accession and referral cases. Veterinarians using communication technologies should ensure that a bona fide veterinarian-client-patient relationship exists.
  • In most cases, these technologies will be used to seek second opinions from colleagues and not to refer responsibilities.
  • It may be illegal to base prescription of restricted drugs solely on information received via communication technology. Prescription of drugs must meet the requirements of individual state legislation and the individual veterinarian must be registered in whichever states they provide services including services utilising communication technologies.
  • Veterinarians should check the requirements of the provider of their professional indemnity insurance, as such policies or related documents may require notification of the use of interstate services.
  • Veterinary electronic discussion tools such such as the AVA website forums and special interest group email lists are useful for general discussions but not for diagnosing specific cases.
  • If offering opinions based on material transmitted via communication technologies, veterinarians should display their credentials, including their physical address, contact details and qualifications.
  • Opinions should not be offered in areas beyond the individual’s area of expertise.

Date of ratification by AVA Board July 2013