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Chewy’s Foray Into Telemedicine Raises Ethical Concerns


You can do pretty much everything online nowadays and health care is no exception. Many of us abhor visiting the doctor, so we try to do everything remotely if possible. Some pet owners feel the same way about their pets. Going to the vet is expensive and inconvenient, especially if you have a large dog that hates riding in the car. Getting diagnosed with a condition online would be ideal.

However, this is not always the best situation for your pet. Some things just cannot be diagnosed without lab tests and blood work. And while telemedicine is growing in the pet care space, it’s not without its ethical concerns. 

Chewy, the e-commerce pet goods retailer, is looking to grow its veterinary telehealth service. However, the company is facing regulatory obstacles and skepticism from the veterinary community. While veterinarians claim that the service can be beneficial for minor situations or for pet owners who live remotely with limited access to veterinary care, it could create problems for pets due to a lack of something called a VCPR.

Chewy has a service called Connect With a Vet, and while it has experienced significant growth, it’s been limited by a lack of VCR, or veterinary client patient relationship. A VCPR exists when your veterinarian knows your pet well enough to diagnose and treat your animal’s medical conditions.

There are various forms of VCPR and Florida falls under one category: must have “seen/acquaintance with” the animal. This category is ambiguous, but what it means is that in order for a veterinarian to create a VCPR with a pet, the client and veterinarian must have seen the patient or become “acquainted with” the animal. However, there is no definition of what “seen” or “acquainted with” means.

Most states — 24 — take the approach that the veterinarian must have examined or physically examined the animal. What this means is that a VCPR can only be established by seeing an animal in person and performing a physical exam. For most veterinarians, this is the only ethical approach. Trying to make an assessment over video without a prior relationship is concerning. When a pet is suffering from a serious medical condition, there is no substitute for a physical exam.

There is a movement to change these VCPR regulations, with the Veterinary Virtual Care Association (VVCA) leading that push. The goal of the VVCA is to make veterinary telemedicine legal across the United States. This would allow vets to diagnose conditions and prescribe medications virtually, even if they’ve never even touched the pet. Chewy is refusing to take a stance on the issue.

Keep Your License With Help From a Tampa Veterinarian Licensing Lawyer

Many companies are trying to grow their businesses and make money, but they need to do it ethically. Health care is a slippery slope, and veterinarians can face ethical issues for treating pets without a relationship in place.

Ethical issues can jeopardize your veterinarian license. A Tampa veterinarian licensing lawyer from The Law Offices of David P. Rankin, P.A. can help you maintain your license. To schedule a consultation, fill out the online form today or call (813) 968-6633.