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What are the issues stalling telemedicine?

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By Josh Loeb

Few would deny that telemedicine and remote prescribing are controversial topics that have divided the profession.

Broadly speaking, vets fall into two camps – those that want change and those that don’t.

Members of the ‘change’ camp want faster progress on reforming the regulatory framework to enable more to be done from afar.

Meanwhile, members of the ‘no change’ camp want the status quo, if not a tightening of existing restrictions.

This chasm has resulted in difficulties in coming to a resolution, and now, more or less, a stalemate. This is evident from the way that the issues of telemedicine and remote prescribing have ping-ponged backwards and forwards between RCVS council and the college’s standards committee (see Box 1).

Box 1:

Chronology of the telemedicine debate

  • 2015 – Joint RCVS/BVA Vet Futures project recommends the RCVS reviews regulatory framework and explores implications of regulation of new technologies

  • 2015–2016 – RCVS standards committee looks into issue and how to take forward a review

  • February 2017: RCVS launches review asking for the views of the veterinary and veterinary nurse professions on the use of telemedicine in veterinary clinical practice

  • November 2017: RCVS council reviews options from standards committee for amending guidance in relation to ‘under his care’ to allow remote prescribing in private session

  • April 2018: RCVS publishes the results of its telemedicine review

  • September 2018: RCVS standards committee considers the results of the review and proposes a trial of remote prescribing

  • November 2018: RCVS council considers the standards committee’s proposal and pushes back on the plan in an open meeting, opting to refer the matter back to the standards committee

  • November 2018–June 2019: Standards committee undertakes fresh work and the idea for the trial of remote prescribing is put on hold

  • June 2019: RCVS council decides in a private meeting that a wide-ranging review …

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