Telemedicine can be defined as any clinical healthcare service that is provided using remote telecommunications services and the aim of the consultation is to receive feedback to help the College develop an appropriate regulatory framework for such services in the veterinary sector.
The current Code of Professional Conduct is mostly based upon the face-to-face provision of veterinary services.
The consultation, which is in the form of an online questionnaire, will consider issues such as who is responsible for veterinary care if it is provided remotely, how ‘under veterinary care’ is defined in the context of the telemedicine delivery of services, the potential risks as well as opportunities for improving animal welfare that may arise out of new technologies and the appropriate regulation of veterinary services provided directly to clients using new remote technologies.
Nick Stace, RCVS chief executive, said: “We want the UK’s veterinary surgeons to be at the forefront of innovation and to be making use of, and developing, new technology to extend the reach of veterinary services and thereby improve animal welfare.
“However, while the adoption of technology can greatly benefit veterinary services, we also need to develop a regulatory framework that takes into account the questions it poses, for example, in areas such as remote diagnosis and prescribing, to ensure that animal health and welfare is the foremost consideration.”
David Catlow, chair of the RCVS Standards Committee that approved the consultation, added: “What we are looking for in this consultation are comments that will help inform a new position for the College on the use of telemedicine. There are questions that need to be answered around the principles of using telemedicine and we hope that we will get the views of a broad range of the profession.
“I would strongly encourage all members of the profession to engage with this survey so that we can build a better picture of how this technology is currently being used, how it might be used in the future and how we can best regulate it.”
The consultation questionnaire will be available to complete for six weeks from Monday 13 February 2017.