FAQ

These are the top 10 most frequently asked questions that the GVMA office receives.

Medical Records: Most common questions

Q: How long must I keep medical records?

A: According to the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine 700-8-.01 (3) & (4) , “All records shall be kept in a readily retrievable form, shall be recorded contemporaneously, and shall be filed promptly following treatment.” “Patient records shall be kept by a veterinarian for three (3) years after a patient’s last visit, notwithstanding any other provisions of law.”

 

Q: 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?

A: The large majority of sanctions imposed by veterinary state boards are a result of medical record keeping violations. Generally, the most common information that 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.

 

Q: 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?

A: 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.

 

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

A: Yes. According to the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine 700-8-.01 (c)(5), “Copies of patient records must be made available to the owner of the animal upon written request to the veterinarian who treated the animal or to the veterinarian facility where the treatment was provided. Such records must be made available within ten (10) business days from request. The veterinarian may charge a reasonable charge for the search, retrieval, duplication and, if applicable, mailing of the patient records.” Outstanding balances can be sought through civil remedy.

 

Q: 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?

A: 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.

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

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.

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

No. According to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-490, “Every licensed veterinarian shall have a lien on each animal or pet treated, boarded, or cared for by him or her while in his or her custody and under contract with the owner of the animal or pet for the payment of charges for the treatment, board, or care of the animal or pet; and the veterinarian shall have the right to retain the animal or pet until the charges are paid.”

For more information on this rule visit http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/default.asp and search for “§ 44-14-490”.

When is an animal/pet considered abandoned?

According to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-491, “If the charges due for any services enumerated in Code Section 44-14-490 are not paid within ten days after the demand therefor on the owner of the animal or pet or if the animal or pet is not picked up within ten days after the demand therefor on the owner of the animal or pet, which demand shall be made in person or by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery with return receipt requested and addressed to the owner at the address given when the animal or pet was delivered, the animal or pet shall be deemed to be abandoned and the licensed veterinarian or operator of a facility is authorized to dispose of the animal or pet in such manner as such veterinarian or operator shall determine. Such ten-day period will begin to run on the date the demand is postmarked or the date the verbal command is communicated in person and shall be noted on the veterinarian’s or operator’s file on the animal or pet. For purposes of this subsection, the term “dispose of” means selling the animal or pet at public or private sale, giving the animal or pet away, or turning the animal or pet over to any humane society or animal shelter or other such facility.”

For more information on this rule visit http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/default.asp and search for “§ 44-14-491”.

Who Can Administer Rabies Vaccinations?

Pursuant to Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 43-50-3 (a)(G) 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.

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

Yes! There are some tasks that RVTs may perform that asstistansts may not. 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. To view the difference in duty restrictions between these two positions, please view the scope of practice links.

Scope of Practice:

Steps to becoming licensed:

At what point can I call myself a veterinary specialist?

According to the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine Rule 700-13-.01:

  1. For purposes of this rule “Veterinary Specialist” is defined as a veterinarian who has completed the requirements to become a Diplomate within an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognized veterinary specialty organization or as recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS), or other Board-approved organizations, or has obtained an advanced degree (MS or PhD) in a specific area or discipline in veterinary medicine.
  2. For purposes of this rule, it shall be considered unprofessional conduct for a veterinarian to identify himself/herself to the public as a member of an AVMA-recognized specialty organization or as recognize d by the ABVS, if such certification has not been awarded. Veterinarians should in no way imply specialty unless they are certified by an AVMA-recognized specialty organization or as recognized by the ABVS, or other Board-approved organizations, or have obtained an advanced degree (MS or PhD) in a specific area or discipline in veterinary medicine.
  3. 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.
  4. Nothing in this Rule shall be construed to prohibit the performance of specialty functions by a veterinarian who has not completed the educational requirements stated in these specialty practice guidelines, provided that the veterinarian does not represent himself or herself as a specialist in the particular area of veterinary medicine.”
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.”

View more on this topic.

Overtime Pay Rules - Fair Pay in Veterinary Clinics

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.
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