Telemedicine in the COVID-19 context - What you need to know

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Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Veterinarians conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic are considered an essential service, as conveyed to us last week by the office of the Hon David Littleproud MP, Federal Minister for Agriculture. The AVA successfully advocated for this outcome, to provide veterinarians with some certainty in the current environment. Whilst veterinary services are considered an essential service, it is still important for veterinarians to consider forms of remote service (telemedicine) where appropriate, to reduce gatherings at their place of business and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The AVA Board recently ratified the AVA telemedicine policy. The AVA has also developed a telemedicine quick reference sheet to assist members. This gives guidance as to what type of telemedicine consultations are appropriate from the AVA perspective, and what the limitations are.

The AVA contacted the Veterinary Boards in each jurisdiction and can advise that all states and territories now have telemedicine guidelines in place for the COVID-19 response. These do differ from the AVA policy, so it is important that veterinarians familiarise themselves with the requirements in the state in which they are conducting business, and adhere to these.

If you require clarification, please make contact with your state or territory veterinary board.

There are common themes between guidelines in all states in relation to telemedicine consultations.

These commonalities are that:

  • Guidelines are minimum standards expected from a veterinary surgeon
  • Professional judgement is required as to whether telemedicine is appropriate for a particular patient
  • Veterinarians must comply with state legislation when prescribing drugs and poisons
  • A relationship must already be established between the veterinarian and the client in most cases; some exceptions exist so check your own state or territory guidelines
  • Patient records must be documented with as much detail as possible
  • Continuity of care must be provided for the patient

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be instances where it may be necessary for veterinarians to conduct a telemedicine consultation that is outside published guidelines or advice and when this occurs, veterinarians should contact their state or territory veterinary board for guidance. It is extremely important you are adequately and properly informed.

You can do this by clicking on the most recent advice for each state via the documents below:

Australian Capital Territory
VPB Advice regarding telemedicine

Queensland
VSB guidelines for telemedicine

New South Wales
Technology based consultations

Northern Territory
Remote or teleconferenced consultations

South Australia
Using veterinary telemedicine

Tasmania
Using veterinary telemedicine

Victoria
Remote or teleconferenced consultations

Western Australia
Guidelines on veterinary telemedicine

Sincere thanks to Susan Chandler, Scott Parry and Gemma Chuck for researching and collating all of this information.

Melanie Latter
Head of Policy and Advocacy


Julia Crawford
AVA President

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