The Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR)

Dr. Tim McDermott, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Franklin County

(Image Source: American Veterinary Medical Association)

One of the classes I teach every year is the Quality Assurance training for 4-H students to prepare for fair season. While I probably would not have too many 4-H students who agree with me on this part (it is a mandatory training for them each year), I will say it is one of my favorite classes that I teach. Part of the reason I enjoy it is how I believe 4-H can positively impact lives, the other is that it allows me to use my veterinary background to engage the students. While the GPP’s (Good Production Practices) that are taught vary from year to year, I always make sure to engage the students with some practical veterinary knowledge so that they can make sure that their livestock project animal is at its healthy best while under their care. A key component to maintaining healthy animals is to have a healthy relationship with your veterinarian.  This is known as the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship or VCPR.  Here is how it is defined, established, and maintained straight off of the American Veterinary Medical Association website.

A Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship, or VCPR for short, exists when your veterinarian knows your pet well enough to be able to diagnose and treat any medical conditions your animal develops. Your part of the VCPR is allowing your veterinarian to take responsibility for making clinical judgments about your pet’s health, asking questions to make sure you understand, and following your veterinarian’s instructions. Your veterinarian’s part of the VCPR involves making those judgments; accepting the responsibility for providing your pet with medical care; keeping a written record of your pet’s medical care; advising you about the benefits and risks of different treatment options; providing oversight of treatment, compliance (your follow-through on their recommendations) and outcome; and helping you know how to get emergency care for your pet if the need should arise. A VCPR is established only when your veterinarian examines your animal in person and is maintained by regular veterinary visits as needed to monitor your animal’s health. If a VCPR is established but your veterinarian does not regularly see your pet afterward, the VCPR is no longer valid and it would be illegal and unethical for your veterinarian to dispense or prescribe medications or recommend treatment without recently examining your pet.

A valid VCPR cannot be established online, via email, or over the phone. However, once a VCPR is established, it may be able to be maintained between medically necessary examinations via telephone or other types of consultations; but it’s up to your veterinarian’s discretion to determine if this is appropriate and in the best interests of your animals’ health.”

Simply put, this is what guides a veterinarian in providing care. One big lesson learned the hard way from the COVID pandemic was that this was a big need to have in place if you are a livestock producer or own companion animals. This allows your veterinarian to give guidance on animal care when it is 2:00 am on a Saturday night. Having a VCPR in place can provide peace of mind that you have a trusted expert that can be contacted that has your animal’s health and welfare as a priority.