November 2022

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog sponsored by Blue Buffalo, Dr. Mary Ann Vande Linde discusses how to get you, your veterinary team, and your clients all in the same direction when it comes to communication and veterinary care. What can you do in your veterinary clinic to help map the path to better veterinary care?

Please note the opinions in this blog are the expressed opinion of the author and not directly endorsed by VETgirl.

By Dr. Mary Ann Vande Linde

Map the path to better care

When you, your team, and your clients are reading from the same set of directions, you make it to your end goal-better pet care-with fewer detours.

Have you noticed how GPS navigation systems have changed the way we travel. Now when you get to a strange city and pick up a rental car, face the drive alone, and wishing you could teleport to your hotel. But now you have help along the way. You sigh as you turn the key and enter your destination address; a calm voice gently guides you to your hotel. This voice tells you when to turn, as the map shows you labeled streets and landmarks. It even predicts the time of your arrival. If, by chance, you make an incorrect turn, the system recalculates and figures out the steps to get you back on track.

Just as you trust the navigation system to make recommendations that keep you on track and safe, your clients trust you to guide them to healthy choices for their pets. The clients’ and pets’ needs are your end destination. And you and your team develop the directions and the maps to show clients the way. These recommendations, grounded in pets’ needs for maximum health and quality of life, are the lifeblood of any hospital.

Use your expertise to blaze a trail
The doctor/s determine the standards of care that team members follow as they lead the client’s pet to health. Maps must be created for the whole team to follow. Everyone—receptionists, technicians, kennel personnel, and veterinarians— must know how a visit will progress and what a pet could need depending on its lifestyle, life stage, and genetic risk.

path trail picture

Establishing set standards ensures that everyone’s on the same page. Every team member is:

• Sending and reinforcing same message
• Providing best care
• Taking about

  • Genetic risks
  • Nutrition needs
  • Exercise
  • Lifestyle risks

This could seem like a lot for your team members to remember but if is giving your team has a map to follow. When you train your staff members to promote the care you recommend, they understand the importance of all wellness procedures—including vaccinations, exams, ovariohysterectomies, neuters, senior care, dental care, and so on. And they’re prepared to talk to—and educate—clients about these issues.

Point the way for clients
All you really need to reach clients is the ability to ask questions and listen to their answers. Clients’ answers help you fill in the final address in your navigation system; the pet’s and client’s needs mark the end point.

Asking the right questions—and really listening to the answers—is often one of the toughest challenges practicing veterinarians face. And it is necessary to ask the right kind of questions – open ended ones.

If you ask: “Do you give your pet table scraps?” The answer almost always is : “No.” Just imagine what kind of information we might have received if the doctor had asked an open-ended question: “What’s your pet’s favorite food?” or “walk me through what you pet eats daily.” The answer to this question might yield new insight into the pet’s eating habits.

Close-ended questions are good for soliciting yes or no answers, and they’re appropriate when you’re gathering the patient’s history. But open-ended questions provide the how, what, and when information. The answers to these questions help the client look deeper into the reasons for the pet’s behavior and understand its needs.

Clients’ perspective
Clients comply with a recommendation because they trust the hospital (the navigation system) and they want to take care of their pet (the end destination). The key to compliance is to pinpoint clients’ needs—just like you must provide the navigation system with a complete address—or you’ll recommend something they don’t feel any connection to. You took them where they didn’t want to go. In fact, the health issue you feel is the most critical may not even be the reason a client came to see you. In this case, you may need to address the client’s concerns first, then move on to the new problem.

woman with dog

Get your team in gear
Every member of your healthcare team is important in delivering a consistent message and stay within the navigation system. For example, if you want your team to recommend that every pet undergo an intestinal parasite check they will follow this map:

• CSR’s remind client about appointment and to bring in a fresh fecal sample
• When checking in the client receives a handout or CDC pamphlet on zoonotic disease
• Technician continues the conversation with a series of questions

  • How do you exercise your pet?
  • When is your pet around other animals?
  • Where does your pet sleep

The pet owner know understands some of the risks of parasites and understands the need for a parasite check. When the veterinarian comes in, he or she will review all the information the technician collected and then recommend an intestinal parasite check. The chance the client will say “yes” is much greater because at this point she’s heard the message from three different people and sees the value of the procedure. When the client leaves, the receptionist congratulations her on the “no parasite seen” fecal test or gives her medicine and commends her for the steps she’s taking to keep the pet and family healthy.

It isn’t difficult to navigate recommendations if your whole team knows the path you intend to take to keep each pet healthy. The trust the client develops in the team, and the determination of the pet’s lifestyle, life stage, and genetic predispositions, create recommendations that bond clients to your hospital for life. No wrong turns or detours here. Just clear, consistent veterinary experiences.

The bottom line to developing a route that is clear, consistent, and strong:

• Develop standards of care.
• Create flow charts showing each person’s role in common procedures.
• Use healthcare plans, or estimates, to ensure you’re recommending everything that’s part of your standard.
• Train team members to understand and communicate pets’ basic wellness needs.
• Build in open-ended questions so you understand each client’s and pet’s needs better.

This VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog is sponsored by Blue Buffalo. Please note the opinions in this blog are the expressed opinion of the author, and not directly endorsed by VETgirl.

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