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Set the tone… how not to be sued in veterinary medicine | VetGirl Veterinary CE Podcasts & Blog

Today's VetGirl guest blog is by Dr. Alex Molldrem, emergency veterinary extraordinaire, from Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Minnesota.

What makes a client upset, feel disrespected or make them want to sue you? Is it the quality of the medicine? The long wait time? The prices? The answer may surprise you.

In the book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains the telling research by physician-patient communication expert Dr. Wendy Levinson. According to Dr. Levinson's research of hundreds of recorded conversations between physicians and patients, there were clear differences between those physicians who were more likely to get sued than those who were not. What was surprising is that there was NO difference in the amount or quality of the information given, but in HOW they talked to their patients. Doctors who were less likely to get sued would:

1) spend about 3 more minutes per patient

2) make "orienting" comments and explain the process of the exam

3) be active listeners and make comments like "Can you expand on that?"

4) and be more likely to laugh and joke

This was taken a step further. Malcolm Gladwell goes on and explains the findings of psychologist Nalini Ambady, who fragmented the recorded conversations and was able to predict who was more likely to get sued based solely on tone of voice. It didn't even matter the educational level, experience, skill of the physician, or outcome of the case! The doctors who came across as dominant were much more likely to be sued than those who used a more caring, concerned and respectful tone of voice.

So how does this translate to veterinary medicine? We already rank high on the list of most trusted professions, but we can follow these simple guidelines to maintain that trust, to make a client's interaction more positive, and to be less likely sued in the meantime. Make the conscious effort to ensure your voice does not come across as dominant or abrasive. Remember, a client's experience begins at the door, so this also includes your reception staff. Be respectful, laugh a bit more, take an extra minute to listen, and watch what happens.

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