Virtual care: telehealth, telemedicine, teletriage and general advice

Virtual care: telehealth, telemedicine, teletriage and general advice - Pet owner looks down at their phone while walking their Cocker Spaniel outdoors.

Thanks to advancing technology like Vetster, the way veterinary professionals can provide virtual care is expanding. Connecting with pet owners by phone or email is something most are already familiar with. Now through our pay-as-you-go service, Vetster provides a comprehensive platform with all the tools needed to work with pet owners online.

One of the most common first questions we receive from veterinary professionals exploring virtual care is,  “What level of service can I provide on Vetster?”

To answer this question, it’s important to understand the different types of service and how your regulatory body views each within the scope of virtual practice.

We expect you to be familiar with the laws regulating your practice of veterinary medicine and to practice as you see fit in accordance with your training, experience, and licensing requirements.

Virtual Care, Telehealth, Telemedicine, General Advice, Teletriage

Virtual Care is an umbrella term we use at Vetster to be all-encompassing of any service provided through our platform between a veterinary professional and client. Within it, there are key modalities of digital care, some of which are governed by your regulatory body.

  1. Telehealth is the broad, all-inclusive term describing all aspects of healthcare provided through the use of technology as opposed to in-person. The broad term telehealth includes telemedicine, general advice, and teletriage.

    Generally on the Vetster platform and in our communications, telehealth is referenced in a non-telemedical sense or in broad descriptions. When we are speaking about veterinary-client diagnosis and prescribing we will call out telemedicine specifically.

  2. Telemedicine can be practiced once you have a pre-existing professional relationship, or are able to establish one virtually based on the guidelines of your governing body. Within telemedicine you provide care in the same way as you would in person, including diagnosing and prescribing as appropriate.

    Vetster’s online pharmacy VetsterRx is available to all veterinary professionals to provide freeform prescriptions, or if in America, VetsterRx fulfilled by PetMeds® to provide clients with in-platform purchase and shipping direct to their home.

    Because professionals may already have a VCPR established outside of Vetster with a client, we do not dictate how veterinary professionals practice on the platform, and instead ask that they understand their regulations and practice legally.

  3. General Advice is a powerful and underutilized approach to virtual care for pet owners. When a VCPR (Vet Client Patient Relationship) cannot be established virtually, general advice unlocks your ability to provide pet owners with information and coaching to help their pet immediately and in the long term. While some perceive it to be limited in its value, at Vetster it is the fastest growing category of care as pet owners most often want help, to be better pet owners, and to understand their options - yes, irrespective of receiving an Rx. General advice exists outside of a professional relationship, is not regulated by law, and is not specific to the pet or the given situation.

    General advice is information about:

    - Signs and symptoms

    - Conditions and diseases

    - Diagnostic testing

    - Options for treatment

    - Outcomes and expectations

    - …and so much more!

    General advice can be provided by a veterinary professional to any client - even those outside of your country of residence. Vetster’s platform is available to pet owners in more than 100 countries (see our blog post here).

  4. Teletriage is another big opportunity where virtual care can be especially valuable. Teletriage can be provided with or without a professional relationship. Check your local legislation to learn more, but most jurisdictions allow a veterinary professional to provide recommendations for how urgently a pet needs to be seen in-person via telehealth. Answering questions like, “Do I need to go to the vet and if so how quickly?” is perfectly suited to a virtual care visit and a highly valuable service.

The natural second question professionals ask is, “What happens if I cannot or should not prescribe? How should I address a client?”

Once you know your regulatory body’s stance on virtual care and establishing a VCPR, it will be clear as to whether you can practice telemedicine and provide a diagnosis and prescription. While there are many ways to be helpful under virtual care, we also recognize that some clients may ask for a specific medication or prescription refill. It is important that you address the client’s concerns, and let them know the appropriate steps they can take to take care of their pet. In many cases you can offer clear next steps for a client, alternative remedies, or a non-prescription medication through VetsterRx.

The bottom line is that Vetster is here to support you and trusts your professional judgment and client communication skills so you can provide a great virtual care experience.

The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.
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