New client communication rule raises questions

  |   Practice Management, State Regulatory

The WSVMA and the Veterinary Board of Governors (VBOG) have received several questions related to the new client communication rule that is set to take effect in the coming weeks. We reached out to VBOG and they provided answers to the most common concerns.

Q – With the new rule, does it mean veterinarians should review every possible diagnostic, medication, or treatment they might administer to a patient with the owner?

A – The spirit of the rule is to set appropriate expectations with clients so they are informed of what the treatments and diagnostic testing will be.

Q – For a hospitalized patient, should veterinarians call the owner each time there’s a change to patient orders and discuss all of the details of what effect the change might have?

A – In emergency situations or situations where monitoring and adjustments of treatment and diagnostics are being made for inpatients on an ongoing basis, the intent is so that clients understand the approach being taken.

Q – How detailed should documentation be? Is there general verbiage that can be used that would adequately cover everything conveyed to owners or should specifics be written down for each case, listing all differential and definitive diagnoses, proposed treatments, side effects, etc.?

A – The intent was not to create more expectations for documentation – only clarifying the standard that the Board currently uses when reviewing disciplinary cases. This should have low impact on changing documentation practices.

Q – Is the new rule to be taken so literally that veterinarians must discuss the possibility of bruising with a blood draw with each owner?

A – Only what the common expected potential side effects could be or what may be most pertinent for that patient. For example, if venipuncture is being performed in a patient with ecchymosis of unknown etiology, the potential for bruising and bleeding should be discussed with the client.

Q – Many pet owners will not understand the details of what veterinarians tell them in order to fulfill these new requirements. If a client doesn’t want to hear it or does not understand, can we still treat the pet?

A – The purpose is to ensure that the veterinarian has made a good faith attempt at communicating important points regarding the patient’s care. If the client does not want to know that information, then that is on the client and not on the veterinarian.

VBOG added that the new rules were ultimately meant to clarify the Board’s expectations for veterinarians regarding client communication. This should not, in any significant way, change how the Board is reviewing disciplinary cases nor change the outcomes of disciplinary case recommendations since. It’s a clarification of how they are already reviewing cases.

Finalization of the new rule, which was originally set to take effect at the end of July, is being pushed back to August 22 due to a minor delay at the Department of Health.

For more information on the new rule, visit the WSVMA website. Have additional questions? Contact us [email protected] and we’ll get your questions answered. Questions can also be sent directly to the Veterinary Board of Governors at [email protected].


Posted July 24, 2020