CAAPT seeks toplay a leading role in making recommendations to lawmakers on how to protect consumers while keeping access open for rehab services by allowing humans to choose qualified, safe, and competent non-vet rehabilitation therapists for their pets.
I think you’ll agree with me when I say I find being able to make health care decisions for my pets is of extreme importance. I want choice.
Of course, the issue is complex and layered. In an interview, Karen reduced the issue to its basic points, illustrating the importance of it.
Q: How does your situation compare to the world of human medicine — primary physicians and their relationship with PTs?
A: It parallels quite nicely with the human medical model, except that MDs are accustomed to working in collaboration with other allied healthcare professionals, while veterinarians are not. So it is taking quite a bit of education to have veterinarians fully understand our scope of practice, what we are trained to do, and how to incorporate our work for the benefit of our mutual patients. In my community, we have a fabulous, collaborative network of veterinarians. They understand my unique skill set and our working relationships are founded in mutual respect for one another’s expertise. The benefits of an improved quality of life for our mutual patients are clearly seen when this spirit of true collaboration exists between the two professions.
Q: I see it as doctors refer, but PTs work independently. I don’t need to see my PT out of my doctor’s office.
A: Correct. In the human medical model, it used to be that a person would see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and be sent to a PT, who worked by referral but without direct supervision of that doctor. MDs are not required to be on the same premises as the PT in human practice. Animal rehabilitation should be no different. We do not feel we need a veterinarian directly supervising a properly trained and licensed PT, as that would likely increase the costs to consumers to necessitate two high level professionals on the same premises. And since there is no evidence to support that properly trained PTs pose harm to our patients, it is not reasonable to mandate that a veterinarian be on the same premises to directly supervise the PT for safety reasons. It comes down to competency. If a practitioner is able to meet certain criteria to demonstrate competency, then they should be allowed to practice in an indirect supervision format without the need for a DVM to be on the same premises. We are not proposing taking the veterinarian out of the plan of care. On the contrary, we believe the veterinarian plays a vital role in making medical diagnoses and a veterinary medical clearance or referral should be required to ensure safety of the pet.
Q: Why do we need to regulate animal rehabilitation and how can it be accomplished here in California?
A: Regulation of this emerging specialty field is necessary to ensure consumer protection and maintain safety for pets. But since this area of animal healthcare lands directly between the purview of two boards, the Physical Therapy Board (PTB) and the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB), it appears that a legislative remedy will be needed to give one of the boards the authority to oversee the professionals. Through statute, other states have successfully either added animals to their PT Practice Act or granted their VMB the authority to oversee another licensed professional (in this case, qualified PTs) to enable the board to discipline, inspect premises, or handle consumer complaints and concerns as needed. We believe this can and should happen in California.
Q: The laws vary state by state, right?
A: Yes, other states have been very effective with their regulatory language to allow for indirect supervision of properly trained PTs, and there have been no formal complaints of harm or neglect by a properly trained PT in California (or in any state that I am aware of) that would warrant a mandate of having a veterinarian be on the same premises. So it already has been proven to be a safe and effective way to regulate. Remember, in California, there is direct access for human PTs. People can go see a PT now without having to see a doctor initially for a referral. We are NOT, however, seeking direct access for veterinary PT. We believe a vet medical clearance and/or referral is appropriate to ensure safety of the pets.
Q: What state models are being run like you want or structured like the vets want?
A: We wish to model California either after Colorado, Nevada, or Nebraska, to name a few. The leading trend is to structure PTs under INDIRECT supervision of a veterinarian, meaning a vet does NOT need to be on the same premises. An animal would need a veterinary medical clearance or referral to see a qualified PT.
Q: How can people help the cause?