RCVS 'Under Care' Guidance : Tips for Best Implementation

With the RCVS 'Under care' guidance now no longer under review Dr. Jessica May has compiled her top tips for best implementation of the new RCVS under care guidelines, which comes into effect in the second half of this year.

What Do the New RCVS Under Care Guidelines Mean?

On Thursday 19th of January 2023 RCVS took their final vote on the ‘Under care’ review. The outcome of which was in line with the guidelines that they proposed in Autumn 2022. As veterinary professionals, we have been providing remote care safely and effectively by various means for decades. Veterinary surgeons will shortly be able to establish an under care relationship with an animal by performing a clinical assessment, remotely. Veterinary surgeons will be responsible for deciding whether or not they have sufficient information from the remote consultation to be able to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) safely and effectively. The RCVS have expressed that they feel positive the reviewed guidance attempts to keep veterinary surgeons firmly at the centre of clinical decision making for their patients to ensure that animal health and welfare is a priority.

“It’s for us as a profession to work to make this work for ourselves and see how our own business models can benefit or can mitigate any potential risks to it.” -Melissa Donald, RCVS at SPVS Congress 2023

However, many within the veterinary community remain concerned around the lack of clarity they feel still remains around the pending regulatory update and the impact it will have upon animal welfare and the sustainability of veterinary practices, particularly amongst those working in large animal practices in remote areas.

BVA’s Malcolm Morley suggested that while the new guidelines still remain proposals, the veterinary profession should continue to define, review and voice what they feel would be the greatest concerns regarding the impact on both animal welfare and the sustainability of the profession as a whole.

How Do Clinics Make a Seamless Transition?

The outcome of this decision marks an important crossroads for the veterinary profession and the future of animal care. We are in a unique position of responsibility whereby reflecting on our experiences, particularly from the past few years, will be vital in making this transition as seamless an opportunity as possible for both clinics and their patients alike.

Despite the ethical minefield that has come as part of the ambiguity of the current guidelines combined with what often feels like an entourage of bad faith, direct-to-consumer, digital disruptors looking to disintermediate, the fact remains there is still no business better placed to embrace a well curated online-to-offline offering than a physical veterinary practice. Therefore, ensuring we do invest in digital health and remote care is an important part of maintaining the sustainability of the profession and its continued endeavours to increase the level of care we offer for generations to come.

So, how do clinics make a seamless transition? Well, veterinary clinics offer a golden triangle for patient care provision; the vet, the owner and the animal; keeping the animal(s) at the centre of our clinical decision making will always be the profession’s North Star. To maintain our focus in a remote setting we can simply ask: “What does this patient need next?”. Defining the terms around remote consulting and digital healthcare provision will be an important next step in supporting veterinary professionals to implement this updated approach to patient care safely and effectively. What Are the Opportunities for Vet Practices? There are numerous opportunities for veterinary practices to build upon, with the new RCVS under care guidelines. Let's look at some of the main ones.

Clinics need to progress their business model to become more competitive. It is essential for modern veterinary clinics to be able to offer updated options to access care. While millennials are now the largest group of pet owners and are more likely to use Google to seek help for their pet, they are also the most likely generation to follow veterinary advice. We must therefore meet our clients where they are.

Whether you leverage the benefits of remote care to reach your patients more widely or to offer more convenient options for payments and appointments; an increased digital offering can increase access to both a better level of service and care.

Staffing shortages can also be alleviated by using digital tools. We can streamline workflows and manage patient numbers more effectively using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous approaches. Initial information gathering prior to an in-person consultation, post-op checks, and vet nurse consultations are a few of the examples where a video consultation can be extremely beneficial.

Another example is providing advice and triage via video consultations to ensure that space is made in the waiting room for priority patients. We know that around 70% of pets who have a remote consultation do not need to visit their physical clinic afterwards. This frees up veterinary teams to see patients that need further investigation and surgery, while simultaneously meeting the needs of owners at home, thereby strengthening clinics’ relationships with their clients and adding value to their overall clinical service.

Historically, we have not been good at monetising our services in veterinary practice. However, remote care enables us to contribute to more sustainable financial models for our clinics. We can charge for our advice, either directly or indirectly. Enhancing the customer care journey increases compliance, drives customer loyalty and therefore increases lifetime customer value (LTV) for a practice.

Finally, remote consulting is an inclusive way of practising veterinary medicine. Those who practise it remain invaluable members of the veterinary team and the profession as a whole. It is imperative that we recognise the place of remote consulting in veterinary practices and give ourselves the opportunity to add this fantastic skillset to our repertoire.

How Do I Get Started with Remote Consulting?

If you've ever had a video call with friends or family or work, chances are you can also get started with video consults for your clients! Getting started is quick and easy. You can start delivering formal remote consultations to your clients within minutes. There are a number of possible solutions for carrying out such assessments. Minimal training is required although communications training and using feedback will help you to deliver consistently high quality consultations, with minimal setup costs. Identify a digital health champion in your practice; someone who will lead this project to ensure that it is implemented in your practice exactly as you would like it to be. Did you provide remote consultations during lockdown? Who enjoyed talking about them? Who enjoyed delivering them? Digital platforms have developed significantly over the past few years. So, prepare to be inspired. From digital payments and appointment bookings to Wellness plans and deliveries, make sure to ask providers what features and revenues their tools can unlock for your clinic. Think about how you will set up your digital consulting room and the needs it must fulfil. Data security, synchronisation of clinical notes with existing workflows and validation of professionals working remotely are all important elements to consider when selecting a platform.

How Can PetsApp Help?

PetsApp helps to keep local vet clinics at the centre of the pet care journey by providing all the tools they need in one place to enhance the services they can offer without further reducing their bandwidth. In the early days of veterinary telemedicine, there was an increasing fear amongst vet practices that remote video consultations would not only lower the quality of care delivered but that it would also exist in direct competition with them. Used by thousands of veterinary professionals, across hundreds of clinics; The most successful veterinary teams now use PetsApp to enhance the care they provide. which beyond remote consultation, offers everything from tailored wellness plans and appointment booking, to deliveries, 2 way SMS, reminders and digital payments. PetsApp Allows your veterinary teams to offer more to your clients and their pets without increasing your workload.

Dr. Jessica May DVM

Jessica May BSc (Hons) BVetMed (Hons) MRCVS

One of our in-house vets at PetsApp, Dr. Jessica May has an extensive background in equine practice and telehealth. After internships with the likes of Bell Equine Veterinary Hospital and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Jess co-founded Flexee, a flexible working company for veterinary professionals. She is Chair of the European Affiliate of the Virtual Veterinary Care Association (VVCA). Jess has particular interests in internal medicine, wound healing, veterinary business and innovation. She graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2012 with degrees in veterinary medicine and veterinary sciences. For more advice on the RCVS 'under care' guidance and everything else outlined in this article please email: jessica.may@petsapp.com

For Further resources on this topic why not also watch PetsApp webinar: top 10 tips for remote consults.

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