Veterinary technology includes the development of practice management tools, computer programs, 3D printing, wearable technologies, minimally invasive surgical procedures, and so on. It has helped to alleviate some of the stresses on the veterinary profession by offering more innovative ways of treating animals and providing efficient and cost-effective treatments.
The benefits of veterinary technology are clear, but there are legal considerations to bear in mind when using vet tech.
Key considerations for practices regarding veterinary technology
Is the technology used by your practice licensed properly?
Practices should review agreements with tech providers to ensure that the technology being used has the appropriate consents in place. It is commonplace for contracts to include specific permissions for the use of tech, so you may find yourself in breach of contract where veterinary technology is being used on a certain category of animal as opposed to others.
Practices should review agreements with tech providers to ensure that the technology being used has the appropriate consents in place
Are you using appropriate disclaimers?
The use of technology, such as fitness trackers, veterinary radiology and ultrasound, comes with the risk of harm as well as the opportunity to heal. If your practice is supplying technology to customers or using it during a course of treatment, you should ensure that the appropriate disclaimers are signed before administering treatment.
Have you limited your liability in your customer contracts?
While it is tempting to have a clause in your customer contract that aims to disclaim and limit all liability, in reality this will be unenforceable. Firstly, this is because there are various heads of loss which cannot be legally excluded. For example, a seller cannot limit their liability for any losses arising out of death or personal injury when caused by negligent or fraudulent activities. Secondly, consumer contract clauses of this nature are subject to the test of “reasonableness”, which is a question practices should ask themselves when reviewing such clauses. For example, a practice (subject to the exclusions outlined above) seeking to limit liability to £10 where it has provided £1,000 worth of care would likely be deemed unreasonable.
While it is tempting to have a clause in your customer contract that aims to disclaim and limit all liability, in reality this will be unenforceable… a reasonable limitation of liability clause is one which seeks to limit liability for losses which are foreseeable
A reasonable limitation of liability clause is one which seeks to limit liability for losses which are foreseeable. You may decide to use specific examples to demonstrate how the practice uses veterinary technology and the potential risks to owner and animal.
Who owns the intellectual property rights in any deliverables produced using veterinary technology?
The key intellectual property right associated with the use of technology is copyright. Under English law, the general position is that copyright vests in the creator and/or author of the works. There are exceptions to this; for example, where an employee develops works during the course of employment, the rights associated with that work are the employer’s. However, in order to preserve and enhance the value of any results produced using veterinary technology, practices need to ensure that they have acted effectively by an express assignment of intellectual property.
Most customer relationship management programs and tools will store personal data. The Data Protection Act 2018 and UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set out the requirements for processing personal data. To satisfy the requirements of processing, most companies have privacy policies in place which demonstrate to customers how their personal data is processed, the legitimate basis for processing, retention periods for processing, and so on.
To avoid hefty fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) it is advisable to review how your practice is processing personal data in light of technological
To avoid hefty fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) it is advisable to review how your practice is processing personal data in light of technological advancements.
Veterinary technology is changing the landscape of veterinary practice but also increasing the exposure to risk. Therefore, its potential brings with it the need to review both supplier and customer contracts to ensure this exposure is limited.