When Red Flags Rise

Dear Colleagues,

When you do business with someone, you expect them to protect your personal information, like your driver’s license, credit card and Social Security number. Your clients expect the same from you.

Protecting Your Clients
That’s why the Federal Trade Commission, in an effort to create and promote a “culture of security,” is implementing the Red Flags Rule, which is scheduled to take effect May 1. Chances are good that the Red Flags Rule will affect you and the way you do business. The rule requires “creditors,” among others, to develop written plans to prevent and detect identity theft. And health-care professionals, including veterinarians, fall into the “creditors” category if they don’t always receive payment in full from their clients at the time of treatment.

We know, it sounds daunting. And, on the surface, the Red Flags Rule may seem like yet another government mandate on your business that will cost you both time and money. But identity theft is very real. And we, as veterinarians, need to do our best to protect our practices and our clients.

That’s why the AVMA wants to help. The AVMA is working with a certified identity theft specialist to conduct a series of informational Webinars about the Red Flags Rule. Two upcoming informational Webinars, on Tuesday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Central Time, and Thursday, April 30, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time, will help you understand why this rule applies to us, why it’s important that you follow the federal compliance requirements and what else is available to you to help you work through the process.

Becoming compliant with the rule is important, and you can get help by contacting a local attorney yourself, hiring an identity theft or risk management consultant, or taking part in this separate, fee-based online program that has been discounted for AVMA members and can be accessed at our “identity theft” page. The Webinars will provide more information about the online training program.

Check the identity theft page on the AVMA Web site periodically for updates on regulatory compliance and additional training seminars.

A Friend Pays a Visit
We were honored over the past two weeks to spend some time with a veterinary friend and colleague from Afghanistan, Dr. Sayed Safi. Dr. Safi is the president and CEO of the Afghanistan Veterinary Association (AVA), and he came to the U.S. to learn more about the organizational aspects of association management. The AVA is a relatively new organization, and it is the first – and only – professional association in the whole of Afghanistan.

During his visit with the AVMA, Dr. Safi met with each division within the association, including our Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., to learn what makes a successful veterinary association tick. He also traveled some, heading to the East Coast and our nation’s capital to explore everything from how to design a veterinary clinic, how to advocate on behalf of the profession and how to get the most out of the legislative process.

Dr. Safi’s visit, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and coordinated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, strengthens an existing relationship we have with him and the AVA that began at the International Veterinary Conference in Kuwait City in 2004 and continued when Dr. Beth Sabin, from our Education and Research Division, attended the first national AVA meeting in 2007. It is this type of outreach that allows us to continue to build strong relationships around the world. These bonds are important, because even though we may be separated by distance, we are connected through a common cause.

Bo Brings a Reminder
Well, Malia and Sasha Obama finally have their puppy, a Portuguese water dog named Bo. While the First Family has more resources at their disposal than most of us, they too need a plan when it comes to taking care of their dog in an emergency or a disaster, whether it’s man-made or natural.

That’s where their veterinarian – and in fact all veterinarians – play a vital role, because we can’t always rely on government to help us out if we find ourselves in the position of having to make sure our family – and the animals we care for and own – are safe.

We can’t stress enough how important it is for veterinarians to have their own emergency plan, whether you’re working in a lab or classroom setting, a private practice or out in the field. It’s equally important for you to help your clients understand how critical it is for them to have their own plan.

So in an effort to help both you and your clients, we have updated all of our materials dealing with emergencies. We’ve created a new CD-Rom version of our Emergency Preparedness and Response guide that’s easy to download or purchase, and is searchable by keyword or through the table of contents. This improved version of our original, bound version is an invaluable tool for you to use to develop your own emergency plan and to help others with theirs. It’s also great if you’re involved in local, regional or state emergency preparedness efforts.

Another product that is even more applicable to your own livelihood is Disaster Preparedness for Veterinary Practices. This publication helps you answer important questions like “What would you do to continue practicing veterinary medicine, to continue paying your staff, and to communicate with your clients?” if an emergency occurs.

While we’re on the topic, we also suggest that you check out Saving the Whole Family, an easy-to-use booklet that every pet owner should have. It’s available in both English and Spanish, can be downloaded directly off our Web site and can be purchased in packages of 25.

Puppy Love
Getting back to Bo, the AVMA took advantage of the publicity surrounding the arrival of the First Pet by tapping behaviorist and former AVMA president Dr. Bonnie Beaver to help us spread the word to the general public about the joys and the challenges associated with welcoming a new dog into the home. You can hear Dr. Beaver’s comments on a new podcast, and while you’re at it, you can also check out the entire AVMA podcast library, which you can easily download for your own use.

That’s Entertainment
There’s more to the AVMA Convention than what happens in the meeting rooms, and we’ve set up a Web page to help you and other convention attendees get ideas to fill your free time.

Check out our new AVMA Seattle Convention Concierge photo stream on Flickr.com, where convention-goers can share photos and ideas about their favorite things to do in and around Seattle. There are some great suggestions for must-see Seattle attractions already posted on the site. And if you’ve been to Seattle before, it’s easy to upload photos of your favorite places to give other attendees advice on what to see.

Our hope is that it will generate more enthusiasm for Seattle as a destination city and help attendees make the most out of their experience so they’ll want to return to AVMA Convention year after year.

If you have recommendations on places to visit, eat and shop, we’d love for you to share that information, too, on our new Convention Forum. The Forum is also a great place to let your friends, classmates and colleagues know you’re coming to Seattle.

We certainly hope to see you there!


Cook signature DeHaven signature
James O. Cook, MS, DVM
W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Chief Executive Officer

6 thoughts on “When Red Flags Rise

  1. Since the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, OTS, NCUA and Federal Trade Commission passed the RED FLAG Rule January 1, 2008 I find it interesting that President Obama is the blame for this.

  2. I concur with Noel (comment #3) No way do I have time to spend an hour in the middle of the work day for something that commenter #1 apparently thought was less than useful. If it was anywhere nearly as confusing as the FTC web pages, I sympathize. Wake up AVMA!
    This all looks like another make work Obama “stimulus” “shovel ready” make the bureaucracy bigger and more intrusive program to me. Since we don’t take photo ID’s or social security numbers from our “creditors” and they can’t steal our identity from our monthly statements the only place in our business that I can see anybody possibly stealing identity is if we had a dishonest employee who copied down credit card numbers or checking account numbers and tried to do something with that, but since “cash or credit card only” businesses are exempt from the “Red Flag” that is a non-sequiter as the same opportunity would exist in a cash business as in a ceditor business.
    Just more government bull crap.

  3. We attended the webinar on April 22, and found it to be virtually useless. Instead of providing us with guidelines on how to implement a Red Flag compliance program, the presentation was mainly a rehashing of material available in the material from the federal government. The webinar ended with an offer of “only $199” per veterinary clinic to provide “how to” information on putting a program into place in our practice. In other words, the webinar was basically an infomercial for the company making the presentation. It would have been truly valuable too the membership to provide actual guidance for implementation in a timely fashion, rather than wasting valuable time listening to an extended sales pitch. Hopefully the AVMA can find someone to meet our needs in this area ASAP and develop a more useful nuts and bolts presentation. Thank you.

    • We appreciate your feedback about the identity theft webinar you attended on April 22nd. We are disappointed that you did not find the program beneficial. The presenter has asked for feedback to help him improve the presentation, and I will share your concerns with him.

      The webinar was designed to provide background and general information for veterinarians who don’t have knowledge of this rule and its application. We can see how individuals who have studied the FTC materials and have more familiarity with the topic would not find it as useful as other attendees. By the way, the online programs can be purchased separately without attending any of the webinars.

      As the May 1st date approached for implementation of this rule, we conducted an environmental scan but were unable to identify guidance specifically tailored for veterinarians. This particular consultant, who has considerable identity theft credentials and who works closely with the Florida VMA, offered to customize training for veterinarians at a reasonable cost.

      Let me be clear — the AVMA is receiving no financial consideration from this arrangement. Our goal is simply to provide veterinary practices with some training options since it would appear that many members will be impacted.

      There are certainly other attorneys and consultants who can provide advice to veterinarians in this area.

      Another option is to review the FTC information and create your own ID theft program by identifying the private info that comes into the practice and what steps can be taken to mitigate the risk. Be sure to document these polices, train your staff and ask your vendors to protect the information you send to them.

      Meanwhile, we continue to try to provide as much guidance as we can to veterinary practices dealing with the Red Flags Rule and are making updates to our Red Flags Rule page at http://www.avma.org/issues/FTC_red_flags_rule.asp whenever we have new information.

      Again, thank you for giving us your input.

      Adrian Hochstadt, JD
      Asst. Dir., State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, AVMA

  4. With the new “Red Flag Rule” regulation put out by the FTC regarding Identity Theft – being enforced May 9th, 2009.
    My comments:
    1- We (I) do not give private credit to our clients (we are not creditors or a bank)
    2- We (I) are a pay for service same day service is given business
    3- Pay by cash, credit card, or check only.
    4- Even though the FTC states creditors that extend credit and exclude those businesses that are pay for service the day service is given…. they will have a way to control our life any way so we (each individual business) is supposed to develop our own “identity theft prevention manual” to show how “we” are protecting the public from identity theft. You know “make it impossible to function as a business rule”.
    5- We are not stupid and make every effort not to give out personal information to anyone not entitled to it, but now with the “big hand over our head” makes one not want to speak to anyone or provide information to anyone without an attorney present. The “let’s make it impossible to communicate and function rule”, which can actually be life threatening if you need information fast to save a life and can’t get it because another veterinarian won’t release information without a “consent form” being signed by the owner(s), guardians, friends dog left in the house when she/he left, etc. etc.
    6- Now the AVMA want to help, sending me a letter stating I can get the information from a Webinar on April 28 and 30th in an hour presentation during the busiest time of my productive day at the busiest time of the year when I am supposed to effectively “close” and pay for a program which will help me develop a “personalized business manual” to show the government how I plan to protect my clients privacy.

    Why not just provide general guidlelines info sheet we can copy and paste on one page to help us comply ?

    • The AVMA identity theft information page does link to the FTC’s general guidance for health care providers at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/articles/art11.shtm. The rule requires a practice or business to assess the type of information it receives, steps it can take to mitigate risk, and training of staff. That analysis varies so greatly from practice to practice that it’s difficult to come up with one set of uniform guidelines that are more specific than the FTC guidance. Nevertheless, we are continuing to search for useful material that we can share with members.