Chewy’s push into pet telehealth runs into regulatory hurdles, skeptical veterinarians

by | Jan 24, 2023 | Business

The application is displayed in the on an Apple iPhone.Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesChewy, the e-commerce pet-goods giant best known for its convenient auto-ship services and generous return policies, wants to grow its veterinary telehealth service as part of an overall push into health care. While the telehealth service is a small part of the company’s rapidly expanding health offerings, it is important to its strategy. Yet it also faces regulatory obstacles and skepticism from the veterinary community. Longtime veterinarians told CNBC the service can have some benefit for minor situations, or for people who don’t have easy access to vet care. But it could create problems for pets, too, they said.Chewy’s service, called Connect With a Vet, has experienced significant growth, but it’s been limited by a specific kind of regulation known as the veterinary client patient relationship, or VCPR, according to Chewy CEO Sumit Singh. “If you look at our Connect With a Vet, it’s the singular most scaled telehealth platform in the market today, only after two years, and yet, it doesn’t form a meaningful portion of our business. Why? Because when you research pet health, you’ll find that there’s a specific term called VCPR,” Singh said.He also noted that barrier is “breaking down” in the wake of the Covid pandemic and multiple states “are already doing away with VCPR.”Zoom In IconArrows pointing outwardsChewy Connect with a Vet service. Chewy.comMost states forbid veterinarians from performing their primary duties – diagnosing conditions and prescribing medication – until they establish a VCPR by seeing an animal in-person and performing a physical exam. “Trying to make an assessment over video without any prior relationship at all …

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