To tech or not to tech - have your say

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is asking for the views of pet owners on the use of new remote technology, known as 'telemedicine', in vet practices.

Telemedicine can be defined as any clinical healthcare service provided using remote telecommunication services, such as video-call services like Skype, wearable technology for pets like activity trackers, and other online services. The aim of the consultation is to help the college develop regulations for these technologies in order to safeguard animal health and welfare, as the RCVS' current Code of Professional Conduct and supporting guidance is "generally concerned with face-to-face provision of veterinary services".

Pet owners taking part in the consultation we will be asked about "issues such as who is responsible for providing care for animals if a service is provided remotely via technology, the risks and benefits of using technology versus face-to-face provision and remote diagnosis and prescribing".

Chief Executive Nick Stace said, “We want the UK’s veterinary surgeons to be at the forefront of innovation and to be making use of, and developing, new technology to extend the reach of veterinary services and thereby improve animal welfare.

“However, while the adoption of technology can greatly benefit veterinary services, we also need to develop a regulatory framework that takes into account the questions it poses, for example, in areas such as remote diagnosis and prescribing, to ensure that animal health and welfare is the foremost consideration.”

Vet David Catlow, who chairs the college's standards committee, said, “What we are looking for in this consultation are comments that will help inform a new position for the College on the use of telemedicine. There are questions that need to be answered around the principles of using telemedicine and we hope that we will get the views of a broad range of the profession.

“I would strongly encourage all members of the profession as well as members of the public to engage with this survey so that we can build a better picture of how this technology is currently being used, how it might be used in the future and how we can best regulate it.”

The online consultation questionnaire will be online until 24 March. Click here to take part as a member of the public, and here if you're a veterinary surgeon or nurse.