Veterinary Telehealth: Clearing up confusion

There has been some confusion as to what the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Emergency Order 2020-04 relating to the practice of telemedicine allows. This is intended to clarify any misunderstanding our membership may have.

Order 2020-04 suspends restrictions in the Florida Veterinary Practice Act Chapter 474, Florida Statutes and Rule 61G-18 Florida Administrative Code that prohibit veterinarians from practicing telemedicine on their patients, providing the veterinarian exercises good clinical judgment to assist the patient.

State of Florida DBPR Emergency Order 2020-04, No. 11 (Appended Below)

Any restriction in Chapter 474, Florida Statutes, or chapter 61G-18, Florida
Administrative Code, which would prohibit active Florida licensed veterinarians in good standing from practicing telemedicine on their patients is suspended provided the attending veterinarian is comfortable assessing the patient remotely and feels able to exercise good clinical judgment to assist the patient.

Points of Clarification

  • The order does not suspend the VCPR requirement for the practice of veterinary medicine in Florida. We wish to stress that the order suspends restrictions that “prohibit active Florida licensed veterinarians in good standing from practicing telemedicine on their patients.”
  • The existing definition of a VCPR in Florida remains in effect, which requires a physical examination of the animal.
  • Veterinary telemedicine can be used to provide a diagnosis or treatment recommendations (this includes dispensing medications and authorizing prescriptions) for “Existing Patients” where a documented VCPR exists.
  • Veterinary telemedicine cannot be used to diagnose or treat a “New Patient” when the veterinarian does not have a valid VCPR.

The FDA’s guidance

The FDA does not intend enforce the physical examination or medically appropriate visits to the premises requirement in the federal Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) definition relevant to the FDA regulations governing Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drugs . Federal definition of the VCPR is similar to the one in Florida. The FDA’s intent is to not charge veterinarians who use telemedicine, in lieu of physical exam/premises visits, in extra-label drug use or veterinary feed directive cases with a violation of federal law. This does not mean that the veterinarian is now immune from a VCPR requirement in Florida.

Florida does not recognize veterinary telemedicine without a valid VCPR. However, the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations just issued EMERGENCY ORDER 2020-04, which impacts veterinary telemedicine. An excerpt of the order is appended below.

11.) Any restriction in chapter 474, Florida Statutes, or chapter 61G-18, Florida Administrative Code, which would prohibit active Florida licensed veterinarians in good standing from practicing telemedicine on their patients is suspended provided the attending veterinarian is comfortable assessing the patient remotely and feels able to exercise good clinical judgement to assist the patient.

Announced March 27, 2020 in Tallahassee, Fla., this emergency order will expire with the expiration of Executive Order 20-52, including any extension.

The subject of veterinary telemedicine has been presented in proposed legislation in Florida for the past three years and has not been enacted into law. Although the existing definition of a VCPR remains in effect (which requires a physical examination of the animal), veterinary telemedicine can be used to provide diagnosis or treatment recommendations on existing patients (this includes dispensing medications and authorizing prescriptions). Veterinarians should consider the spirit of the governor’s emergency order and adopt strategies that will help minimize exposure to COVID-19. The treating veterinarian has the ultimate decision on whether the use of technology (video, phone or internet) to assist certain existing clients/patients is appropriate.

We applaud our dedicated professionals who, in the face of this pandemic, remain open to ensure protection for the health and well-being of Florida’s pets and citizens. We strongly encourage practices to exercise preventative measures to ensure the safety of their staff, families, clients and patients. To read more, click here.