Telehealth: A Touch of Controversy

The human touch is critical to veterinary medicine, but is it critical to establishing the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) and will continuing to require it end up driving pet owners to Dr. Google? The Bowman Report assembled three expert influencers to dial in on telehealth, its relationship to the VCPR and its risks and rewards.

To set the stage for the following discussion, consider this: A woman is experiencing pain and difficulty during urination. She calls a telemedicine service, describes her symptoms and gets a prescription for antibiotics within the hour. A few nights later, she hears her cat crying out from the litter box, and she sees blood in the urine. As she frets over whether to wait for her veterinary clinic to open in the morning or to force her cat into the carrier for a stressful 45-minute car ride to the nearest emergency clinic, she wonders why telemedicine isn't an option for her pet.

With technological advances and the availability of telemedicine in human health, it's no surprise pet owners are increasingly demanding similar access to round-the-clock veterinary care. The infrastructure to meet those expectations is largely available, but confusion and even controversy over the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) has limited the veterinary profession's entrée into virtual medicine. To shed some light on this issue and help veterinarians better understand this emerging space, we invited three leading experts on telemedicine to discuss the nuances, the associated fears and the possibilities for the future.

Meet the Panelists

Lori Teller
DVM, DAVBP (canine/feline), CVJ

Dr. Lori currently serves on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) board of directors and is chair of the AVMA's State Advocacy Committee. Lori was recently named the first faculty member in telehealth at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences' (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH).

Lori is past-president of both the Harris County and Texas Veterinary Medical Associations (TVMA) and recipient of the TVMA's Recent Graduate of the Year Award and President's Award. She served as the chair of the board of certification for the American Society of Veterinary Journalists and was a founding board member of the Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative.

James Penrod

James serves as the executive director of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), a non-profit organization whose mission is to support and advance the regulatory process for veterinary medicine.

James is a past chair of the Certified Association Executive (CAE) Commission, a program designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate association professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to manage an association in today's challenging environment. James has received numerous accolades, continually bringing credit to the profession and the association management community.

Jessica Trimble

Dr. Jess is a veterinarian passionate about increasing access to basic veterinary care for pets through technology-enabled healthcare. Scalable telehealth services and practical implementation of telehealth technologies are of particular interest. A graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, she's been in veterinary practice for six years. She currently is the chief veterinary officer at Fuzzy Pet Health, a technology company offering in-home and virtual care veterinary services.

When she's not working with the Fuzzy team, she's on the beach, hiking the redwoods, backpacking the Sierras or hanging out with her two cats (Steve and Vilo).

By the Numbers

71% of pet owners turn to the internet instead of their veterinarian1
39% of pet owners admit they sometimes struggle to decide when to call the veterinarian1
1980s Roots of veterinary telemedicine began when transtelephonic electrocardiogram (ECG) transmitters connected veterinarians across the USA to cardiologists at the Animal Medical Centre in New York
Between 2011 and 2016 in human health:
643% National increase in insurance claim lines with telehealth usage2
960% Increase in telehealth use in rural areas (telehealth is of particular benefit to remote communities with limited access to physicians and hospitals)2
629% Increase in telehealth use in urban areas2
2015 Year that Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation's largest human healthcare systems, reported patients got treated via virtual care more often than in person3
  1. "Banfield Pet Hospital® Launches 24-Hour Access to Pet Health Advice with Vet Chat™," Banfield Pet Hospital®, June 4, 2019.
  2. FH Healthcare Indicators™ and FH Medical Price Index™, FairHealth 2018.
  3. "Kaiser CEO: Telehealth Outpaced In-Person Visits Last Year," mHealth Intelligence, October 11, 2016.
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