Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger Explains How Telemedicine Can Jeopardize Your Veterinary License

Like so many fields, technology has made it possible for veterinarians to serve clients remotely.  Using computers, telephones, and Skype-type video links, many veterinarians in Missouri and Kansas can help patients well even when they are not physically present with the animal in need. But while these technological advances allow for quick consultations over vast distances, they also allow for several potential licensing issues. At direct issue is whether a “veterinarian-client-patient-relationship” is established between the person contacting the veterinarian and the veterinarian. This is an emerging area of law, so I wrote the following blog post to provide an overview.

If you are a veterinarian in Kansas or Missouri facing an allegation of misconduct or an investigation, call attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule a free consultation. Your career, reputation, and livelihood are at risk, and the challenge facing you is one you cannot work your way through alone.

The Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship

Veterinarians want to help animals and put their owners at ease.  Telemedicine has made this more accessible but relies on diagnosis of problems without actual physical exams. Because these diagnoses lack that critical foundation, veterinarians often ask whether an incorrect diagnosis could result in an allegation of misconduct or malpractice.

As I mentioned above, the key element when looking at issues involving veterinarian conduct and allegations of misconduct is the veterinarian-client-patient-relationship.  Generally speaking, a veterinarian establishes a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship when she has sufficient knowledge of the animal in question to make a preliminary diagnosis of its medical condition, and that knowledge is either based on a past physical exam or a personal acquaintance with the animal.  That means that a call-in diagnosis that lacks the foundation of an actual, hands-on exam will usually not trigger a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship, which, in turn, means that a licensing board can not bring misconduct allegations based on these telemedicine interactions.

While the Missouri or Kansas licensing boards may not be able to bring a licensing action against a veterinarian who allegedly makes a misdiagnosis or acts negligently during a telemedicine session, that does not mean that the animal’s owner could not bring a civil negligence suit. Such a case would likely allege either that the diagnosis was negligently given or that the doctor’s use of telemedicine was itself negligent, meaning that the technology was insufficient to adequately asses the animal’s condition.

Negligence means that a person had a duty to protect another person—here, an animal—and failed to make reasonable efforts to meet that duty.  In telemedicine, the veterinarian must be able to demonstrate that the exchange of medical information using electronic communication, including audio telephones, text messages, or email allowed the veterinarian to meet or exceed the minimum competent standard of practice.  Veterinarians must follow the same rules for telemedicine as for in-person visits, including meeting requirements for recordkeeping and confidentiality. Veterinarians must always base diagnoses on extensive give and take communications across emails, telephone, or video conferencing and should never rely on an intake questionnaire.

Contact an Experienced Kansas and Missouri Licensing Attorney Now

You have worked too hard to attain your veterinary license.  Contacting an experienced licensing attorney to help you through the misconduct hearing process, explain the implications of any allegations against you, and can mean the difference between getting back to treating animals and losing your career forever.

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger is prepared to advocate for your best interests and defend you. Call Attorney Sanger at 785-979-4353 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney experienced dealing with veterinary licensing issues.