Telemedicine in Veterinary Medicine: more COVID-19 info
If you’re in Canada, you may have heard that all non-essential businesses are to be closed until further notice due to COVID-19. While veterinarians do assist pet owners when their pet is ill, all elective or non-essential procedures will need to be postponed. Our company sent out a report that we will be accepting patients outside of the clinic, the lobby and exam rooms will be closed to clients (owners), and the exam will occur away from the pet owner. All wellness and vaccine appointments will be rescheduled. We are also being asked to service via telemedicine if possible. We will gather the history over the phone, and if the pet cannot be transported in, then triage based on clinical signs. Not everything will be found from the history, and an established veterinary-client-patient relationship should be present. There are four things that ONLY veterinarians can do: diagnosis, prognosis, major surgery, and prescribe. Telemedicine is still new in Canada. Certainly, there are companies that are arranging for pet owners to speak with a veterinarian via video chat to see if the symptoms they notice in their pet are dire and require emergent care, or if this is something that can wait until their regular veterinarian is available. Additionally, companies such as VCA offer their CareClub members 24/7 live chat. You won’t be chatting with your regular veterinarian, but again can be helpful to triage situations. Now, during this pandemic, our governing body plans to be a bit relaxed in these troublesome times and at the licensed veterinarian’s discretion allow prescription of non-controlled medications over the phone to treat the most likely differential diagnosis based on the history, without a physical exam. Our professional judgement will be necessary to understand which need to be seen quickly and which ones can wait. Additionally, having a plan in place in case the trial treatment does not work. How long should owners wait to bring their pet in if it’s not improving. All of these will be crucial to ensure that pets continue to receive the medical care they deserve. Most clients are highly appreciative of our efforts, but please also be patient. The system is overloaded. We have one receptionist answering the phone and handling as many questions as possible. Yes, the supply chain for food and medication will be slower than normal. Pet owners will not be allowed to stock pile food for six months, to ensure that other pets can be fed in the next two. Please be patient. Please be kind. We are still going to be open to assist the ill pets who are in need. However, pet owners need to follow the government instructions so that everyone can stay safe.