Frequently Asked Questions

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Veterinary Practice Act

Who Can Administer Rabies Vaccinations? 
 
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Requirements for Veterinary Practice

Standards for Infection Control in Prevention of Disease Transmission in Veterinary Practices

Overtime Pay Rules - Fair Pay in Veterinary Clinics

What must I do to renew my license?

How long must I keep medical records?

If medical notes are in the computer, can I dispose of the paper file for a pet when it dies?

I've been told that anything with the client's signature must automatically become part of the client's "permanent" history, and needs to stay with the record until it is ready for shredding/disposal.  Is this true?

I have a new client and I would like to get the patient’s records from the previous veterinarian, can I just call and have them sent to me?

Do I have to release medical records even if the pet owner has not paid the bill?

Do I have to release the pet even if the pet owner has not paid the bill?

When is an animal/pet considered abandoned?

How do I handle prescriptions and client purchases from Internet/mail order pharmacies?

Should I be charging sales tax for prescription drugs?

Are relief veterinarians employees or contract labor?

What are the rules for providing discounted services to veterinary staff?

At what point can I call myself a veterinary specialist?

Do our technicians have to be registered in order to perform the duties of a technician?

How can I get the required radiation safety training for my staff?


Who can administer rabies vaccine?
Pursuant to Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 43-50-3 (a)(G) (click here to go to Georgia Code - Free Public Access), and based upon public health concerns, the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine considers the administration of rabies vaccine, for official vaccinates, in Georgia as the practice of veterinary medicine. Therefore, the Board finds that this practice cannot be delegated to an employee and the vaccine must only be administered by a Georgia licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
 

OSHA Requirements for Veterinary Practices
Click on the topic below or go to www.OSHA.gov

Model for Infection Control in Veterinary Practices

The National Association of Public Health Veterinarians Veterinary Infection Control Committee has released its "Model Infection Control Plan for Veterinary Practices, 2006."

Infection control measures vary from practice to practice and are often insufficient to prevent zoonotic disease transmission. The Veterinary Standard Precautions in this compendium are designed to prevent transmission of zoonotic pathogens from animal patients to veterinary personnel in private practice. Use the links below to download the compendium and the appendix.

COMPENDIUM OF VETERINARY STANDARD PRECAUTIONS: ZOONOTIC DISEASE PREVENTION IN VETERINARY PERSONNEL

The Veterinary Standard Precautions outlined in this compendium are designed to reduce the risk of zoonotic infections among personnel in private veterinary clinics and hospitals from both recognized and unrecognized sources of infection. They are to be used with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis, when contacting blood, all body fluids, feces, exudates, non-intact skin, or mucous membranes. In addition, VSP include practices to prevent bites and other trauma induced by veterinary patients that may result in exposure to zoonotic pathogens.

APPENDIX D
Model Infection Control Plan for Veterinary Practices, 2010

This model plan should be adapted to your practice in keeping with local, state and federal regulations. Refer to the corresponding sections in the full Compendium of Veterinary Standard Precautions for complete information and guidance.
 

Overtime Pay Rules (effective August 23, 2004)
Under the regulations, known as the FairPay rules, workers receiving less than $23,660 per year or $455 per week are guaranteed overtime pay. An exemption from those overtime pay rules is made for bona fide executive, administrative, professional (learned professional or creative professional), and outside sales employees and certain computer employees. To be exempt, they must be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week, and they must meet certain tests regarding their job duties. Job titles do not determine exempt status.

FairPay in the Veterinary Clinic

Veterinarians – Employed veterinarians would quality for the “learned professional” employee exemption from guaranteed overtime pay if the following qualification were met:

*  The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week;

*  The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment;

*  The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and

*  The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Technicians – Licensed veterinary technicians and other similar employees are not exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements because they generally do not meet the requirements for the learned professional exemption because they do not work in occupations that have attained recognized professional status, which requires that an advanced specialized academic degree is a standard prerequisite for entrance into the profession.

Administrative Staff – Office administrators and managers could qualify for the “administrative” employee exemption from guaranteed overtime pay if the following qualifications were met:

*  The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate of not less than $455 per week.

For more information on this new requirement, visit www.dol.gov.

What must I do to renew my license?
Renewal applications must be completed on-line at the website of the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

  • All licenses will expire December 31, of even numbered years.
  • The renewal fee is $200.00.
  • Attain the required number of Continuing Education hours.  See Board Rule 700-7-.03for specific continuing education requirements.
  • Renewals received January 1st through December 31st following the renewal year must be accompanied by a late renewal fee of $300.00.
  • After December 31st of the late renewal year all non-renewed licenses will be administratively revoked and require reinstatement by the Board.
  • Reinstatement of license shall be requested in writing to the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

How long must I keep medical records?
This is text from the Rules of the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine. You can review all the rules at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/acrobat/PLB/Rules/chapt700.pdf

700-8-.01-3. All records shall be kept in a readily retrievable form, shall be recorded contemporaneously, and shall be filed promptly following treatment. 4. Patient records shall be kept by a veterinarian for three (3) years after a patient's last visit, notwithstanding any other provisions of law.

Important note: the IRS requires records be kept for seven years, so be sure to make that distinction in your record keeping. Also, the three year rule applies whether the pet is living or deceased.

Click here for more information on record keeping.
 

If medical notes are in the computer, can I dispose of the paper file for a pet when it dies? Is a print-out of history or doctor's notes legally sufficient or must I keep the original record for the designated number of years?
Regarding digital records or paperless files, Dr. Ted Cohn, former chair of the AVMA Informatics Committee wrote this:

"Electronic, or more properly, digital signatures are still relatively controversial. The federal government recognized them as legal for online transactions in October 2000. However, whether the Georgia legal system or the State Board of Veterinary Medicine would be satisfied in a court case is another question.
Client's signatures might be captured electronically in a variety of ways: a tablet PC with the appropriate electronic form or a digitizing pad could be used. Other options might include a digital biometric security device (finger print, retinal scan, etc). Of course, a scanned image of a signed paper document could also be maintained in an electronic medical record. The crux of the problem still comes down to the concern that electronic records can be altered by a knowledgeable person. For legally sensitive transactions, the safest means of communication remains a traditional signature on a paper document. The safest advice is that until technology catches up with security and legal concerns, keep a pen handy."

Additional note: if you were to go to a paperless office you should take measures to ensure the integrity of the records system - creating password protection and audit trails. Courts (not necessarily Georgia courts) have been fairly lenient in admitting electronic records, and there are no known legal cases in veterinary medicine where the admissibility of electronic medical records was denied.
 
Getting an outright definitive answer on the issue of electronic records may require a formal request by the GVMA to the State Board on how they would address electronic records. Until the board has provided their policy on electronic records in writing, it is ultimately up to them and their discretion on a case by case basis, and the issue will still have some ambiguity.
 

I've been told that anything with the client's signature must automatically become part of the client's "permanent" history, and needs to stay with the record until it is ready for shredding/disposal.  Is this true?
The large majority of sanctions imposed by veterinary state boards, are a result of medical record keeping violations. Generally, The most common information veterinarians fail to include in the medical record is communications with clients, staff and colleagues regarding the care of the patient. If the document is important enough to require a signature, and you have gone to the trouble of having the client provide a signature, then you need to save that document in the patient's record. Otherwise, your steps to obtain the signature have been wasted.
 

I have a new client and I would like to get the patient’s records from the previous veterinarian. Can I just call and have them sent to me?
Patient medical records are the property of the veterinarian, however Board Rule 700-8-.01 (c)(5) requires that copies of patient records be made available to the owner of an animal. You may charge a reasonable fee to the owner. There is no requirement that they be made available to other veterinarians. It is recommended that every veterinarian create a records request form that your client can fill out if they want a copy of the records.
 
Do I have to release medical records even if the pet owner has not paid the bill?
Records must be provided when requested by the owner per Board Rule 700-8-.01 (c)(5). Outstanding balances can be sought through civil remedy.
 

Do I have to release the pet even if the pet owner has not paid the bill?
No. Every licensed veterinarian shall have a lien on each animal treated by them while in their custody and under contract with the animal owner for the payment of charges for the treatment of the animal. The veterinarian shall have the right to retain the animal until the charges are paid. (click here to go to Georgia Code - Free Public Access)

When is an animal/pet considered abandoned?
If charges for services are not paid within ten days after the demand or if the animal/pet is not picked up within ten days after the demand, which is made in person or by registered or certified mail with return receipt requested and addressed to the owner at the address given at the time the pet is dropped off - the animal/pet is considered abandoned. The ten day period begins on the date the demand is postmarked or the date the verbal demand is communicated in person and should be noted in the veterinarian’s or facilities file on the animal or pet. The complete information is found in Georgia Code 44-14-491 (click here to go to Georgia Code - Free Public Access).

For more on animal abandonment see this Georgia Veterinarian article.
 

How do I handle prescriptions and client purchases from Internet/mail order pharmacies?
When drug therapy is medically indicated, the attending veterinarian should initiate the prescription in the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship. Drugs may be dispensed or prescribed and the requests from clients to prescribe rather than dispense a drug must be honored. The client has the option to fill the prescription at any pharmacy. The law does not prohibit charging a fee, however, veterinary practices must establish a practice policy and be consistent. You may require a client to pick up the written prescription at your office in lieu of faxing it to an internet pharmacy.
Pharmacies cannot dispense drugs without the authorization of a licensed veterinarian (read, staff cannot authorize prescription requests from internet/mail order pharmacies.)

Internet Pharmacies
The GVMA solicited the assistance of an attorney to provide members with an appropriate letter to distribute with prescriptions not filled within your veterinary practice. All members may use this template.
 Download it here.


For the AVMA Position Statement on Internet Pharmacies click here.

Should I be charging sales tax for prescription drugs?
Yes. According to the Georgia Sales and Use Tax Exemptions - O.C.G.A. 48-8-3, drugs sold for animal use are not exempt from sales tax. Taxable sales would include prescription drugs and retail sales, but would not include professional services.

In addition, there is something known as Vendor's Compensation, that will allow businesses to recover some of the sales tax. The Vendor's Compensation rate on sales is three percent (.03) of the first $3,000 of state and local taxes, plus one half of one percent (.005) on the taxes over $3,000.

Example of vendor compensation

Taxable Sales $17,000.00
Sales Tax at 6% $1,020.00
Vendor's Compensation ($30.60)
Sales tax submitted to the state 989.40

 

 

 

 

 

Are relief veterinarians employees or contract labor?
Here, in brief, are the federal guidelines:

  • the substance of the relationship controls the tax treatment, not the label you or the person you are hiring puts on it.
  • IRS Publication 15-A states that “an individual is an independent contractor if you, the person for whom the services are performed, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.”

For a more extensive article on compensation of relief veterinarians click here.

What are the rules for providing discounted services to veterinary staff?
In order for the discounts not to result in taxable income to the employee (with resulting payroll taxes for both the employee and the employer), these discounts cannot exceed the following amounts:

  • For services, 20% of the price you charge clients for the same service.
  • For sales of products, your average gross profit percentage for the prior year times the price you charge clients for the same products.

For a more thorough article on employee discounts click here.
 

At what point can I call myself a veterinary specialist?
Georgia State Board rule 700-13-.01 defines a Veterinary Specialist as a veterinarian who has completed the requirements to become a Diplomate within an AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization or as recognized by the ABVS or other Board-approved organizations, or has obtained an MS or PhD in a specific area or discipline in veterinary medicine.

Identifying yourself to the public as meeting these criteria if you do not will be considered unprofessional conduct.  The use of the terms “board eligible” or “board qualified” shall be used only by practitioners with certification from an AVMA-recognized specialty organization or as recognized by the ABVS or other Board-approved organizations.

The rule does not prohibit the performance of specialty functions by a veterinarian who doesn’t meet these criteria as long as the veterinarian does not represent himself or herself as a specialist in the particular area of veterinary medicine.
 

Do our technicians have to be registered in order to perform the duties of a technician?
Yes, only technicians who have passed the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and have registered with the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine are allowed to be termed registered veterinary technicians (RVTs). All other non-registered employees must be called veterinary assistants. The Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine has passed new regulations that will govern the scope of practice for registered veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants.

How can I get the required radiation safety training for my staff?
The GVMA does not offer an onsite course but we do have a series of  DVDs that have been approved by the Georgia Department of Human Resources as meeting the six hours of required instruction for radiation safety training. The tapes include a certificate of completion that can be copied for each person that watches the series. Send a check for $150 made payable to the GVMA Foundation to the GVMA at 233 Peachtree St., NE, Suite 2205, Atlanta, GA 30303. Be sure to enter "Radiology Tapes" in the memo section of the check.

Remember that any employee operating an x-ray machine must begin the training within 30 days after employment and complete it no later than 90 days after date of employment. You must maintain a record of all training for each operator.