I am considering getting into the telemedicine arena. Is there anything I should be aware of before I start to market in this area? (Sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)

Dec 01, 2008

The allure of telemedicine is appealing, especially to equine practitioners. Instead of long days behind the windshield or slaving over a horse's mouth on the hottest day of the year, you can be sitting in your air conditioned office—looking at a computer screen, answering questions and solving problems. Despite the attraction, let's look at some of the things about which you need to be aware before you pursue telemedicine.

Telemedicine means that you are providing consultative, diagnostic, and treatment services via electronic communication. As with many good ideas, this is an area where the rules and laws have not quite caught up with what is happening in the marketplace. Even if you are careful to double check your advice, use only high quality films and protocols for conveying results, and have excellent communication skills, you still have issues that are unique to this kind of a practice. For example, are you practicing medicine in a state that you are not licensed in? By definition, you are communicating with individuals over the internet, many of whom are not located in the state in which you hold a license to practice veterinary medicine. Have you checked with your department of professional regulation, as well as the states in which you might be dispensing advice?

Another question to ask yourself is if your malpractice carrier covers you for this type of practice? If you don't have it, now would be a good time to check with them. What happens if you are sued for giving bad advice? Have you talked with a lawyer familiar with these types of issues to be sure what legal rights you have and where your potential problems might be?

With any new technology there are risks. If you choose to pursue telemedicine, be sure to cover your bases.

Elise Lacher, CPA
Strategic Veterinary Consulting Inc.
Seminole, Fla.