April 16, 2020
Categories: Shelter Medicine

The following blog post is written by Dr. Michael (Mike) Greenberg, DVM, Director of Outreach Programs, Maddie’s Fund®.

In the world of telehealth, there are a lot of terms that sound similar, but they’re not synonymous. Understanding the differences between these terms is key to understanding the field, particularly as it relates to the legal questions that a lot of us have in animal welfare. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are three of the most important terms to grasp:

  • Telehealth is a general term. It refers to any use of technology to provide health-related information remotely. Other common terms in this field are sub-types of telehealth.
  • Teleadvice refers to providing general health information remotely. It does not pertain to a specific animal. An example of teleadvice would be a veterinarian explaining to a pet caregiver that pets need to be closely monitored for pain after surgery. Giving teleadvice does not require an established veterinary-patient-client relationship (more on this below)
  • Teletriage has the specific aim of helping a pet caregiver if they need to take their pet to a veterinarian based on the conditions they are observing. For example, a caregiver may notice their dog limping suddenly on a Sunday night. A vet providing teletriage would help the caregiver decide if they need to head to an emergency clinic or it would be okay to wait until morning. Teletriage does not require an existing veterinary-client-patient relationship.
  • Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of conditions for a specific pet. Importantly, telemedicine does require a veterinary-client-patient relationship. For example, a caregiver has a pet with recurring seasonal allergies. They speak to their veterinarian via video chat. The vet observes the pet itching and reviews the record, then calls in a prescription for allergy medication. This is telemedicine.

For just one example of how telehealth is being utilized, check out the Best Friends Vet Access app.

You can learn more and see frequently asked questions and answers about telehealth, including how to set it up at your organization, on our website.