New veterinary client communication regulations set to take effect end of July

  |   Practice Management, State Regulatory

The Veterinary Board of Governors (VBOG) has finalized new rules that establish minimum requirements for veterinarians when communicating evaluation and treatment options to clients. The new rule is intended “to ensure care provided promotes the health and safety of animal patients based on client decisions and emphasizes the importance of consultation with clients.” The decision to establish the new requirements stems from a 2017 petition by a pet owner whose dog died after being given NSAIDs and who wanted to require that veterinarians provide “Client Information Sheets” to better communicate risks to pet owners. The Board agreed to establish a new rule, but after further deliberation, they decided to take a more holistic approach. Here is the text of the new regulation:

WAC 246-933-345 Client communication regarding evaluation and treatment.

1)     The veterinarian must communicate when appropriate to the client the following:

    • a)      Proposed diagnostic tests;
    • b)     Differential diagnoses;
    • c)      Definitive diagnoses;
    • d)     Proposed treatments;
    • e)     Common side effects or adverse outcomes from proposed diagnostic testing or treatment;
    • f)       Most likely side effects or adverse outcomes from proposed diagnostic testing or treatment based on patient signalment and disease status. Patient signalment may include, but is not limited to, species, breed, age, and sex;
    • g)      Estimated cost;
    • h)     Prognosis; and
    • i)       Alternate diagnostic and treatment options for the patient.

2)     Such communications must be timely and sufficient to enable the client to understand clearly the problem and the choices that must be made, and provide written or verbal consent for a proposed diagnostic and treatment plan. If other staff is involved in the communication process, it is the responsibility of the veterinarian to ensure that such communications are appropriate. All communications must be made prior to rendering treatment, except in cases of emergencies as described in WAC 246-933-050 or when a client cannot be reached for consultation within a reasonable time frame as dictated by the patient’s condition.

3)     Client communication required in subsection (1) of this section must be documented in the patient medical record.

To support the new rule, new definitions were added to WAC 246-933-310:

  • “Client” means the patient’s owner, owner’s agent, or other person presenting the patient for care.
  • “Treatment” means any action or procedure taken to impact an animal’s physical, mental, or behavioral health in the pursuit of preventing or resolving disease, maintaining or improving quality of life, or providing end of life care. This includes, but is not limited to, the prescription, recommendation, issuance, or administration of any drug, veterinary feed directive, vitamins, minerals, or supplements.

The new rule is expected to be codified on or around July 31 and at that point veterinarians will have to begin complying and documenting such communications in the medical record.

The complete text of the language of the rule can be viewed here.


Posted June 19, 2020