Recently, we have faced several circumstances in which a client asks us to refill a prescription medication or to recommend treatment for a pet that has elapsed from an active Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). I am taking this opportunity to inform you of what VCPR means, why it exists, and why it is important.
Common sense tells us that a VCPR exists when we (the doctors at Longwood Veterinary Clinic) know enough about your pet to diagnose and treat medical conditions that exist or may develop. For a healthy patient, this means an exam at least every 6 to 12 months depending on their age. For a patient with an active or ongoing illness, this means more frequent exams.
The VCPR also has a very specific legal definition. All veterinarians practicing in Florida, are legally bound by Florida’s Veterinary Practice Act. The laws contained therein dictate and define our legal responsibilities in the practice of veterinary medicine. This statute includes the following:
“The documented patient/client/veterinarian relationship cited in Section 474.214, F.S. is herein defined as a veterinarian’s record of a client’s animal which documents that the veterinarian has seen the animal in a professional capacity within a period of 12 months or less.”
The law also defines what veterinarians are not allowed to do outside of an active VCPR, including dispensing prescription medications, recommending specific treatments, etc. This same statute goes on to dictate the penalities for violating this portion of the Practice Act. These range from a reprimand, up to a fine of $5,000 and a suspension of licensure for up to two years. Ouch.
A VCPRis established only when we examine your animal in person and it is maintained by regular veterinary visits as needed to monitor your pet’s health. A valid VCPR cannot be established online, via email, or over the phone. If a VCPR is established but we do not regularly see your pet afterward, the VCPRis no longer valid and it becomes illegal and unethical for us to prescribe medications or recommend treatment. This would include ongoing, perpetual medications such as parasite preventatives.
Even if the law did not mandate annual examination, it is a sensible policy. Because things can change so quickly in the life of an animal (remember, one calendar year is 5 to 7 physiologic years to a dog or cat), I firmly believe it would be reckless and irresponsible for me to continue treatment or prescribe new medication without knowing everything I need to know about your pet. Their needs and conditions change without warning and they can’t tell you!
Longwood Veterinary Clinic has always, and we will continue, to act in the absoulte best interest of you and your pet. Please understand that when we recommend regular examination by a doctor, we are not only complying with our legal obligations, we are looking out for your pet and doing our best to keep you together with them for as long as possible.
If you have any questions about this policy, please contact our office. Thank you for your understanding and for the trust you place in Longwood Veterinary Clinic.
Rick Marrinson, DVM