Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

Veterinary Telemedicine in California: VCPR & Telehealth

September 13, 2023
Veterinary Telemedicine

With the rise of telemedicine, veterinary practices have begun exploring virtual consultations and remote care options. However, in California, establishing a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) through telemedicine presents unique challenges. This blog will delve into the intricacies of veterinary telemedicine in California and provide insights into the requirements for establishing a valid VCPR in a virtual setting.

Understanding the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR): The VCPR is a fundamental concept in veterinary medicine. It is the foundation of proper diagnosis, treatment, and care for animals.

  • Traditionally, the VCPR is established through in-person interactions between veterinarians, clients, and their animals. However, with the emergence of telemedicine, new considerations and regulations come into play.

Telemedicine and the VCPR in California: In California, the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) has specific guidelines regarding the establishment of a VCPR through telemedicine.

  • While telemedicine can be a convenient and effective tool for providing veterinary care, it is essential to comply with the VMB's requirements to ensure legal and ethical practice.

Key Considerations for Establishing a VCPR via Telemedicine:

  1. Prior Relationship Requirement: To establish a VCPR via telemedicine, California law requires a pre-existing relationship between the veterinarian and the patient. This relationship typically involves an in-person examination within the past year or an examination and consultation in person or via telemedicine within the past six months.

  2. Adequate Communication Technology: Veterinary telemedicine platforms must employ secure and confidential communication technology to protect client information and ensure effective communication between the veterinarian and the client. Utilizing secure video conferencing and encrypted messaging platforms can help maintain privacy and facilitate meaningful interactions.

  3. Thorough Medical History: The veterinarian must have access to the patient's complete and accurate medical history. This includes previous diagnoses, treatments, medications, allergies, and any relevant records or laboratory results. Clients should be encouraged to provide comprehensive information to ensure informed decision-making and appropriate care.

  4. Diagnostic Limitations: Telemedicine consultations have inherent limitations when it comes to performing certain diagnostic procedures, such as physical examinations, palpations, or surgical interventions. Veterinarians must inform clients about these limitations and explain when in-person visits are necessary to provide a thorough evaluation.

  5. Informed Consent: Obtaining informed consent is crucial in telemedicine consultations. Veterinarians must ensure that clients understand the limitations, risks, and benefits of telemedicine, including the potential need for in-person examinations or treatments. Clearly documenting the client's consent in the patient's medical record is essential.

  6. Compliance with Laws and Regulations: Veterinarians practicing telemedicine must comply with all relevant federal and state laws, including those related to medical recordkeeping, privacy, and telehealth practice. Staying informed about changes in regulations and seeking legal guidance can help ensure compliance and mitigate potential risks.


The advent of telemedicine has opened new avenues for veterinary care, providing convenience and accessibility to clients. However, in California, it is crucial to understand and adhere to the specific requirements set forth by the Veterinary Medical Board for establishing a VCPR through telemedicine.

By maintaining a prior relationship, utilizing secure communication technology, obtaining comprehensive medical histories, addressing diagnostic limitations, obtaining informed consent, and complying with applicable laws and regulations, veterinarians can navigate the complexities of telemedicine while providing quality care to their patients.

Seeking legal guidance and staying up-to-date with evolving regulations in this dynamic field will further assist veterinary practices in successfully incorporating telemedicine into their practice and meeting the needs of their clients and patients.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)?

A: The VCPR is a critical relationship between a veterinarian, client, and their animal, forming the basis for proper diagnosis and care. It establishes the veterinarian's legal and ethical responsibility to provide treatment recommendations.

Q: How is the VCPR traditionally established?

A: The VCPR is traditionally established through in-person interactions, where the veterinarian physically examines the animal. This examination typically occurs within the past year or within the past six months for telemedicine consultations.

Q: Can a VCPR be established through telemedicine in California?

A: Yes, California allows the establishment of a VCPR through telemedicine. However, certain requirements must be met, such as a prior relationship between the veterinarian and the patient and the use of secure communication technology.

Q: What are the key considerations for telemedicine consultations?

A: Telemedicine consultations must ensure the use of secure communication platforms, access to the patient's complete medical history, and the awareness of diagnostic limitations in remote examinations.

Q: What are the diagnostic limitations in telemedicine?

Telemedicine consultations may have limitations in conducting certain diagnostic procedures, such as physical examinations and palpations. Veterinarians must communicate these limitations to clients and advise when in-person visits are necessary.

Q: How can veterinarians ensure compliance with telemedicine regulations?

A: Veterinarians should obtain informed consent from clients, document the consent in the patient's medical record, and stay up-to-date with federal and state telehealth laws and regulations.

Q: Is it essential to seek legal guidance for telemedicine practice?

A: Yes, seeking legal counsel, such as dental and medical counsel, can help veterinarians navigate the complexities of telemedicine regulations and ensure compliance, mitigating potential risks.

At Dental & Medical Counsel, PC, we understand navigating the legal process can be tricky. We believe every doctor deserves the best advice and service so doctors can do what they do best, treat their patients. We make their lives easier by providing expert guidance, so they can focus on their personal and professional aspirations.

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About Ali Oromchian, Esq.

Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M. is the founding attorney of the Dental & Medical Counsel, PC law firm and is renowned for his expertise in legal matters

In addition to practicing law for almost 20 years, Ali is also a renowned speaker, throughout North America, on topics such as practice transitions, employment law, negotiation strategies, estate planning, and more! Ali has helped hundreds of optometrists realize their professional goals and looks forward to aiding you in navigating the legal landscape. 


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