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Messaging for Action

Posted By Christine Shupe, Wednesday, December 19, 2018
 

Pointers for motivating inactive clients
Every practice has them… clients who ignore and miss heartworm shots, fail to schedule annual checkups or wellness visits and, in general, meet your requests for action with crickets.

 

Are clients who fail to act after receiving reminder notices for the veterinary practice irresponsible pet owners? Of course not! There are a host of reasons why they may not be incommunicado: financial, logistical and personal. But the truth may be that your reminder messages are just not resonating with them or inspiring them to take action.

 

A Purina survey of dog owners published in July 2018 revealed: 95% of dog owners view their pet as part of the family, 62% report that their canine buddy helps them de-stress and 55% credit their pooch for offering emotional support. It appears that the emotional connection between owners and their pets is deep and practices should factor this in as they craft their messages.

 

In life, whether you are dealing with clients, neighbors, friends, family or kids, the power of your message depends on how well you can tap into the recipient’s psyche. If you’ve ever had to ask a teen to do something, you understand what I mean. Remind a teen to complete a chore and you might be met with a nod, eye roll and then… inertia. However, if you explain why it must be done and the ramifications of not doing it --- hopefully --- the message will elicit action.

 

Moving beyond the predictable

It’s essential that practices review the messages they send to clients. Reminders that consist of no more than a curt statement are less likely to shake the recipient out of his lethargy and lead to action. It’s also reasonable to conclude when a practice issues a perfunctory reminder, it will yield no more than a glance from the client and may even be tossed in the trash immediately.

 

There are, however, actions that can improve the quality of your messaging and increase client compliance.
The first is to ensure that your client communications appeal to clients and the bond they have with their pets. Consider how much more effective it is to receive a reminder that recognizes the client’s love for their pet and their desire to maintain a long and healthy relationship with it. Starting the message by acknowledging the bond and engaging the client, allows the narrative to segue way into reinforcing the connection between preventive care and compliance and well-being and longevity.

 

Practices should also evaluate the methods used to communicate with clients. Some clients may respond to traditional methods, such as postcards and phone calls, whereas the message may be ignored by those who prefer mobile-friendly digital messaging, such as texts or emails.

While employing multiple communication components such as text, email, manual postcards and phone calls, may address all preferences, it is essential that the client not be made to feel like he is being bombarded with information from the practice.

 

For additional information on how to reengage clients, Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP) has devised an Inactive Client Re-engagement Reminder Program that has been shown to be highly effective in bringing lapsed clients back into the practice. What makes the PHP program different from other re-engagement efforts is that it takes into account a client’s visitation history and the messages that managers can use, which focus on empathetic messages to inspire clients to reengage.

 

Build the right message and your clients will come back!

 





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Forward Booking: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 20, 2018
 

The VHMA November 2018 Insiders’ Insight survey revisited “forward booking,” a topic that was previously addressed in 2014. The big surprise? There has been little change in the number of respondents forward booking medical progress exams and/or preventive care exams over a four year period!

 

A quick Google search for “veterinary forward booking” returned more than a million results, with many articles listed in the initial five pages showing a publication date or 2017 or 2018. Despite the amount of real estate devoted to the topic, we are seeing only slight increases in the number of practices that have embraced forward booking.

 

Even with the publication of, Preventive Pet Healthcare: Your Guide to Becoming a Practice Champion, a practical guide that leads reader through a step-by-step process to increase the emphasis on preventive healthcare and highlights techniques for implementing forward booking, the needle has not moved significantly.

 

To glean insights into the barriers to implementation, the responses contained in the Insiders’ Insight report are revealing and seem to fall into three broad mindsets. These include: risk aversion, glass half empty thinking, and destined for failure.

 

Fear of taking a risk

 

Many of us have grown up with popular phrases that encourage the status quo…”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” and “Leave well enough alone,” are just a few examples of the way we are conditioned to stick with what works (sort of) rather than risk experimenting with an approach that is outside the normal way of doing business. Some respondents noted that because staff is reluctant to try forward booking, it has not been implemented.

 

While it’s important to be mindful of the consequences of our actions and policies, fear---whether it is expressed by staff, the owner or clients--- is not a compelling reason to disregard a best practice. Replace fear by focusing on the benefits of forward booking to patients, clients and the practice.

 

The glass half-empty thinking

 

Several respondents indicated that they had not utilized forward booking because of issues with appointment calendars and DVMs schedules.  Admittedly, these are obstacles, but we caution managers not to admit defeat without taking a harder look. If your focus is only on what’s wrong, it will be difficult to move forward because most endeavors are fraught with some type of obstacle. If you haven’t implemented forward booking because the stars are not in alignment, it is time for an attitude adjustment.  When you see it as half-full you are more likely to seek solutions that will fill the cup to capacity.

 

Once a failure, forever a failure

 

Finally, several respondents reported that their efforts to implement forward booking were not successful. If the first attempt did not have the intended results, rather than abandoning the initiative, it’s more constructive to revisit the approach and figure out why it didn’t work. An honest, unbiased evaluation can effectively pinpoint problems that may have occurred, allowing revisions that can increase the effectiveness of the strategy and the likelihood of success.

 

For suggestions about how to implement forward booking successfully, comments provided by Insiders’ Insight survey respondents offer a great starting point.

 

VHMA’s Preventive Pet Healthcare: Your Guide to Becoming a Practice Champion is a solid, practical, easy to use resource for practice leaders who are seeking to implement forward booking. Check out the Partners for Healthy Pets website for a roadmap, tools, and success stories.

 

Be brave, be positive and accept the challenge of moving forward with forward booking!

 

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Creating a Feline-Friendly Practice

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 30, 2018
 

Kermit the Frog sang, “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.” Being green may be challenging, but consider life as a cat. According to recent studies:

  • About a quarter of all adult cats are overweight. (Banfield 2014)
  • Since 2009 the number of cats with FIV has increased 48%. (Banfield 2014)
  • In the past five years, arthritis in cats has gone up by 67%. (Banfield 2013)
  • Kidney disease is 7 times more likely in cats than in dogs. (Banfield 2013)

At a time when feline health issues are increasing, feline veterinary visits declined by 4.4%. Unfortunately, the decline in veterinary visits is not that startling given that another Banfield study found that 58% of cat owners believed that their cats hate going to the veterinarian and 38% said that they stress even thinking about a veterinary visit. The drama and stress of the veterinary visit---whether real or perceived---suffered by felines and their owners is an obstacle to providing quality care to cats and one that veterinary practice must confront in order to remove the barriers to preventive care and treatment.

 

When owners neglect to schedule timely visits and follow preventive healthcare guidelines, they are failing their beloved companions. Preventive healthcare is the key to maintaining wellbeing and recognizing and treating diseases and medical conditions before they cause irreparable damage.

 

The VHMA/Partners for Healthy Pets protocols highlighted in this blog can be applied to treating feline patients, but there is a caveat. To become a Preventive Pet Healthcare Practice Champion for cats, practices must consider and address the unique needs of felines.

 

Felines are cats; not small dogs. Creating a welcoming environment for feline patients that reduces the stress and anxiety associated with the veterinary visit is at the heart of ensuring that clients embrace preventive healthcare.

 

Practices that want to design a cat friendly environment that is inviting and responsive to the needs of felines and their owners can advance their knowledge and acquire essential information by visiting the Partners for Healthy Pets website.

 

The site is a bonanza of feline-specific resources, tools and information. Many of the resources have been created by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) ---an organization dedicated to the health and welfare of cats---and address the full spectrum of feline issues including: how to become a certified cat friendly practice, information about effective cat handling techniques, feline-centric webinars and special collateral materials for cat owners. For practices learning to navigate the world of the feline patient, the site focuses on the unique characteristics and needs of cats and provides practical advice for using this information to better serve felines so that they may benefit from preventive pet healthcare.

 

Short “how-to” videos created by the CATalyst Council are also available and can be used to help guide the practice through cat handling techniques and life stage needs.

 

For practices committed to creating an environment that is non-stressful for both the cat and owner in order to promote a stronger awareness of the need for preventive pet healthcare to better health for our feline friends, taking inventory of the resources and tools available on the Partners for Healthy Pets website is an important first step. The site contains information that is essential for transforming the practice and communicating this commitment and concern to patients and clients.

 

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When Communicating with Clients, Take Your Cues from Dancers

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 17, 2018
 

Have you ever wondered why certain dances are referred to as social dances? Rumba, Tango, Salsa and Foxtrot all rely on nonverbal communication to create a rapport between partners. Effective client communication is an integral component of becoming a Practice Champion. Although we’ve addressed client communication in past blogs, this month we’ll begin by addressing the nonverbal aspects of communicating the importance of preventive pet healthcare to clients because effective communication---whether it’s on the dance floor or in the office---is to a significant extent, nonverbal.

Ready, set, face your partner

When preparing to approach a client to discuss preventive pet healthcare, prior to uttering a single word, think like a dancer. While dancers practice their steps to improve muscle memory to achieve mastery, by familiarizing yourself with these nonverbal behaviors and their impact on the client, Practice Champions will be better prepared to employ them to enhance the Preventive Pet Healthcare conversation.

Face the client: Your posture should indicate that you are there for the client. If you are involved in an activity while simultaneously speaking to the client or if you are diverting your eyes to activity around you, you are constructing a barrier between you and the client.  

Be open to the client: Although you may be open-minded and responsive to what the client is saying, your body position may give a different impression. Crossed arms and/or crossed legs may suggest to the client that you are opposed to what they are saying.

Maintain eye contact: When attempting to convey to a client the importance of preventive healthcare, few behavior are more off-putting than failing to look the client in the eye. When you don’t focus on the person you are speaking with, you risk appearing disinterested and insincere.

Relax: Ask a trusted colleague for feedback about how you present yourself to others. Do you exhibit nervous traits that may impede communication? If you roll your eyes, tap your foot, drum your fingers, it is critical that you banish these tics from your repertoire if your goal is to be a better communicator.

Focusing on the above-mentioned nonverbal behavior can have a significant impact on improving communication, but there are several other points to consider:

Avoid clichés: When you talk to a client about Preventive Pet Healthcare, make a conscious effort to not respond to their concerns with clichés. Make sure you are hearing what the client has to say and that your responses are directly related to any concerns voiced.

Be empathetic: If a client shares a concern do not repeat or parrot that concern. Compose a response that demonstrates that you understand and are processing their comment.

Maintain your composure: The client may not be understanding what you are saying and you may be frustrated. Better to give the client time to think about the conversation and revisit it later rather than to push too hard to make a point.

To further strengthen your communication skills and for more insights into how to promote Preventive Pet Healthcare in your practice, consider looking into the Partners for Health Pets Preventive Healthcare Certificate Program. The program consists of 10 Learning Units that highlight the tools and resources that are essential to effectively discussing the values and benefits of Preventive Pet Healthcare.

In the meantime, continue to practice your moves. Like any great dancer, practice makes perfect!

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Is Your Digital Presence Furthering Preventive Pet Healthcare?

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, August 23, 2018
 

Fostering a social media presence to educate clients about the value of preventive pet healthcare is an important component of the Preventive Pet Healthcare workbook. There are many advantages to incorporating social media into your practice and it can be effective in changing mindsets and encouraging clients to be more proactive about a pet’s health and care.

 

Like many things, social media is great, until it’s not great. When is it not great? The impact of social media is diluted when it becomes inefficient and time consuming for the practice and an annoyance for the client. To prevent social media from adversely impacting your efforts and the practice, we’ve identified the issues that often interfere with a business’ efforts to use social media effectively.

 

Whether you are developing a social media presence or have been an enthusiastic user of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, by considering the points below as you educate and connect with your clients through various platforms the potential for building stronger relationships and providing clients with good information increases.

 

Posting too many times on a daily basis

 

If I told you that studies demonstrate that multiple, daily postings do not necessarily result in favorable results, would you breathe a sigh of relief? Well go ahead, take that breath because research show that less is more! When postings are too frequent, there’s a risk that the content becomes white noise---it’s there but clients aren’t paying attention.

 

Posting successfully means that you are judicious about the posts. Focus on preparing one very good post or find something impactful on the internet and post it. This is the content that will resonate with your clients. For a more thorough understanding of what works, study likes and comments to past posts for a better sense of what moves your clients.

 

Navigating without a map

It’s an oldie, but still a goodie: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” Without a social media plan, you may be expending energy that is not necessarily taking you in the right direction. After determining what you hope to with social media, it’s time to move forward with the specifics. The plan need not be elaborate but it should contain references to which social media platforms you will use, the type of content that is important to clients, posting schedule and a component to review the effectiveness of the strategy.

 You are an island

You have an account but you are not following other related accounts. Quick…find accounts to follow and like content. This give and take is what will make your social media presence vibrant and active.

 Too much already!!

You are trying to be on too many social media sites and don’t have the staff or content to maintain a presence. Don’t dilute your efforts. Select as many sites as are reasonable given your resources.

With a little thought and forward thinking, social media can play a vital role in furthering your preventive pet healthcare goals.

For free Internet Marketing & Social Media resources be sure to check out the Partners for Healthy Pets website.

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The Art of the Huddle

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hey team, let’s huddle around to discuss communication!

 

 

Football is one of the best examples of the transformative power of the huddle. We’ve all seen these impromptu meetings on the field. Players gather, look each other in the eye and plot their attack on the opposition---all within a matter of seconds! Once play resumes, the game can change dramatically.

 

Whether on the field or in the conference room, the huddle is a useful communication tool because it promotes time-limited, direct, person-to-person contact.

 

Among preventive pet healthcare advocates, the Preventive Pet Healthcare workbook is a comprehensive resource for guidance, tips and strategy. Convincing pet owners to embrace preventive care is largely contingent on communication that promotes understanding.

 

Complementing the step-by-step process outlined in the workbook are scripts and education strategies available on The Partners for Health Pets website that can be used to refine and enhance communication.

 

As Champions review, adapt and implement scripts and client education strategies, they should also plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the approach being used. Brief, informal huddles with relevant team members encourage feedback on the message being conveyed to clients in a timely manner in a setting where all who communicators are given a voice.

 

To view a video created by PHP on how to organize a huddle, go to: https://goo.gl/ZuvVUf

 

Even if you’ve never played football, you have likely participated in a number of work-related huddles so you can understand their importance. Below is a list of suggestions for hosting a huddle that will leave the team feeling energized.

 

Elements of a great huddle

  1. Be sure the meeting is face-to-face and that all key players are involved in order to receive comprehensive feedback.
  2. Select a convenient time, day and location and try to minimize distractions. Scheduling a huddle at the end of the day when players are mentally ticking off what needs to get done before they leave may make engagement challenging.
  3. Keep the meeting brief…about 15 minutes.
  4.  Prior to the huddle, let the team know what will be discussed. Keep a checklist handy to be sure you cover what needs to be addressed.
  5. Identify roles ahead of time. Who is the quarterback? Is there someone else who should be leading the discussion? Iron out the details prior to the meeting so the team can focus on the business at hand.
  6. The huddle is not a status or planning meeting. It is simply a quick evaluation of the priority item, which allows staff to quickly state their concerns and provide input.
  7. All team members should have a chance to speak.
  8. Standing is a great idea. It literally keeps participants on their toes and ensures the meeting doesn’t run too long.

Huddles provide opportunities to receive constructive feedback and respond to issues. They can become useful platforms for making improvements and field testing initiatives. They also can improve the team culture, strengthen relationships and finesse client communications for a small, targeted investment of time.

 

Now, what are you waiting for? Hut, Hut, Huddle!

 

 

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Planning to improve communication

Posted By Christine Shupe, Monday, June 25, 2018
 

Effective communication is the foundation of a strong and trusting professional-client relationship. In fact, it may be as important as the quality of care provided by a practice. While a team can be technically gifted, if the client does not feel respected, listened to and informed about their pet’s care, it can result in unhappy clients who are less inclined to comply with the practice’s recommendations. Although effective communication may not be a panacea for all the challenges that the healthcare team and client struggle with, it can position the team for more productive encounters with clients.

Consultants in the area of improving communication in the healthcare setting identify these issues as ones that should be considered when evaluating or developing a practice communication strategy.

Focus on empowering the client: The relationship between healthcare staff and client is one of imbalance---the healthcare team has the medical expertise and the client is the pet parent. Communications that take place in the healthcare setting should always involve give and take. The healthcare team should make every effort to invite the client into the conversation and listen to the insights and information provided.

Manage client expectations: An integral component of communicating effectively is managing expectations. Clients whose pets receive a clean bill of health and an appointment to return in a year should have a clear understanding that they have an impact on their pet’s health and complying with preventive care protocols is the best way to ensure their furry friend remains healthy and happy. Should the client’s compliance become lax, they cannot realistically expect that the pet’s good health is guaranteed.

Make it a point to make the team a font of information: Thanks to the internet, information is everywhere. What you don’t know or didn’t hear correctly can be googled. The healthcare team can minimize confusion if they are clear about what is occurring during the visit, repeating and rephrasing information and giving the client an opportunity to ask clarifying questions. The goal is to set up a protocol for dispensing information so that when the visit is over, the client does not have to search other sources for information.

Because professionals---regardless of their areas of expertise---have a tendency to overestimate their ability to communicate effectively, tools that offer an unbiased representation of the effectiveness of the communication that occurs during the office visit are helpful. The Opportunity---the online survey tool from Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP) is one such tool. The Opportunity tool helps uncover communication disparities between what the healthcare team says and what the client hears. The site also provides scripts, videos and other supporting materials useful when creating your communication plan. 

 

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Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew!

Posted By Christine Shupe, Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Better to address guidelines one population at a time

 

 

When creating preventive healthcare protocols, the prudent advice from experts is, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew!”

 

Written preventive protocols should be crafted for the different pet populations treated in the practice. There are protocols for felines and canines, as well as the young, middle- aged and seniors. That’s a lot of protocols! Drafting and creating these guidelines can easily become time consuming, unwieldy and complicated by the size of the practice and the number of staff contributing to the process.

 

VHMA’s Susan Savage, CVT, CVPM. MBA, PHR, who facilitates a group of practice managers who are using the VHMA's Preventive Pet Healthcare: Your Guide to becoming a PRACTICE CHAMPION tool to develop guidelines for their practices, strongly encourages managers to consider how the process will play out when numerous guidelines must be coordinated among a number of staff members.

 

Susan’s suggestion? Start small! She does acknowledge that when staff is excited about implementing a program or procedure, the energy generated by their enthusiasm can be difficult to reign in. After all, who wants to listen to the skeptic in the room? However, group feedback reveals that practices that take on too much at one time are likely to accomplish less.

 

 Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to push back against staff’s desire to do it all. In the long run, you will avoid the frustration that can ensue when staff finds that the process becomes unwieldy and complicated by many moving parts. Start small, enjoy the success and apply what works and avoid what doesn’t work when crafting future guidelines.

 

Making Choices

 

When selecting the guidelines to tackle, stick to the road well-traveled. If there are protocols—or something vaguely related to protocols---available in the practice, use those as the starting point. AAHA/AVMA Guidelines should be considered in conjunction with the practice protocols during the review process. For the group’s first foray, consider selecting a population for which generating protocols are straightforward to increase the likelihood of success.

 

Suggestion: Susan recommends starting with middle-aged canine guidelines as the protocols may be less extensive than those for puppies and seniors.

 

Coordinating Participation

 

Not surprisingly, coordinating the protocol process of a small practice is less cumbersome than coordinating the efforts of a large practice simply because there are fewer players involved. Even in a small practice, given workloads and schedules it may be difficult to arrange a time for the entire staff to sit together and brainstorm.

 

Based on the group’s experiences, members suggest starting the guideline review with the veterinarians. Based on their feedback continue revising and circulating to other select groups. Continue the review as the guidelines evolve.

 

Regular updates are key. Not only do they communicate to staff that they are an essential part of the process, it ensures that the entire staff is aware of tweaks and revisions and creates a sense of ownership and commitment.

 

The piece-by-piece strategy to create guidelines can encourage participants to be more thoughtful in their review and evaluation of the materials.

 

Recommendation: Identify a system for communicating information about the developing guidelines. Whether it is through email, regular meetings or another means, having a predetermined system in place will ensure that contact with participants is ongoing.

 

Adhering to the Guidelines

 

Creating the guidelines is not an end in itself. The guidelines should be committed to paper and become an integral part of office procedure. Creating a checklist that is posted throughout the practice can increase guideline compliance among staff.

 

Practice Tip: Creating guidelines is not a once and done exercise. Continue to refer to the guidelines with staff at meetings. Follow-up with questions to discern how effective the guidelines are. Invite staff to submit suggestions to improve the protocols.

 

 

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Moving Forward with Forward Booking

Posted By Christine Shupe, Friday, April 27, 2018
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2018

When aiming to create new policies and procedures, it can be a lengthy and stressful process depending on the issue and how receptive staff is to the new policy. Introducing a forward booking policy is no exception. We know that done right, forward booking can result in healthier patients and a healthier bottom line for the practice. Successful implementation depends on staff transitioning to a new routine. Even the slightest change in “business as usual” can cause discomfort, anxiety and, at time, resistance.

 

Susan Savage, CVT, CVPM, MBA, PHR, group facilitator for the VHMA Champion Workgroup – FORWARD BOOKING, shared some sage advice from a group of practice managers that are exchanging insights about their experiences with introducing forward booking in the practice. Although each is at different points in the implementation process, their feedback and suggestions are valuable to managers who are either planning to introduce forward booking or are in the midst of the process.

 

Susan stressed that forward booking should be initiated for all visits---both wellness and medical progress exams. She acknowledged that most practices are already using forward booking to schedule medical progress reviews/rechecks and blood testing. Scheduling these appointments seems to be more intuitive because they represent the next steps in a treatment plan. She and the group did observe that staff members were not booking for wellness visits during progress visits and that they need to be thinking about wellness appointments at every visit.

 

Forward booking preventive healthcare visits, in general, can be a bit challenging because the visits are booked so far in advance that clients may be reluctant to make a commitment.

 

The issues, however, are not insurmountable. Summarized below are some of the lessons learned from those on the front lines.

 

1. Make sure the veterinarians in the practice are committed to and see the value of forward booking. They must understand and support the concept because their input is essential for setting the parameters of the forward booking policy.

           

2. When a policy has been outlined and forward booking has been incorporated into the practice’s procedures, identify a system for gathering baseline data regarding client compliance with the preventive care protocol. This information will be essential further down the road to assess the success of forward booking and identify areas that need to be improved and changed.

 

 3. Before presenting forward booking to the team and giving them their marching orders, button up the details. Identify and assign team and individual roles and responsibilities. Implementation should be specific.

 

4. Decide how to ensure that forward booking is a top priority for staff. Reminders can reinforce the action staff must take and can take many forms…posters, checklists, clever sayings posted on the wall…the possibilities are endless. Be bold, be creative! The goal is to sear forward booking into the memory of staff. Flyers are availed at https://www.partnersforhealthypets.org/forward_booking.aspx. They can be printed and posted throughout the practice.  Partners for healthy pets will provide Forward Booking buttons for staff members to wear as reminders and a way to get the conversation started with clients.

 

5. From those who know, an important tip…Many practice management software programs have features that provide a forward booking alert to staff members. Make certain that feature is active.

 

6. Remember to set up reminders to clients that are sent in advance of the next appointment so the client can change or cancel if needed.

 

Susan and the group members admitted that it has taken a bit of prodding and reminding to get staff to forward book preventive health visits, but they continue to devise strategies to support staff. To date they have discussed training, reminders, goal setting with staff, and yes, even offering rewards!

 

 

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That Space Between Us: What We Say, What Clients Hear

Posted By Christine Shupe, Thursday, February 15, 2018

That Space Between Us: What We Say, What Clients Hear

 

 

Partners for Healthy Pets published the results of a study that examined whether clients retain and process what veterinary professionals believe they communicate during preventive healthcare exams. To determine if a disconnect exists, Partners for Healthy Pets employed The Opportunity survey and gathered data over a five year period. Between April 2013 - June 2017, 1,193 staff members and 1,360 pet owners completed surveys. Although more dog owners (833) were surveyed than cat owners (527), pet owners in general are not completely tuned in to what veterinary staff is saying.

 

Ramifications of poor communication

 

When clients do not hear what they are being told during the exam, it means they are not fully grasping the significance of what occurs during the office visit and are probably not understanding the importance of the services provided. This lack of attention can impact their attitudes towards veterinary care and negatively effect a pet’s health. When staff communicates clearly and directly, clients are more likely to leave the office feeling relieved that the pain assessment did not reveal any significant issues, as opposed to walking away lacking information and wondering whether the investment of time and money in the visit was worth it.

 

Identifying the gaps

 

The Opportunity survey measures communication issues in two areas: gaps related to services performed during an exam and gaps related to the importance of the services performed.

 

Data related to client awareness of services performed was collected for canine owners and feline owners.

These responses were compared to staff responses about services discussed during the exam. 

 

According to staff, during a canine preventive healthcare exam, the services that are commonly performed are: dental exams (95%), weight and nutritional assessments (89.5%) and pain assessments (73%). When pet owners were asked if the above-referenced services were discussed during the exam, 77% recalled the dental exam, 77% remembered the weight and nutritional assessment and only 45% had any memory of a pain assessment. These results signal a fairly significant disconnect between what staff report they do and what clients are able to call to mind.

 

Feline exam results were similar. Ninety-five percent of staff indicated that a dental exam was performed and 78% of clients reported that the exam occurred. Pain assessments were conducted by 68% of staff, yet only 30% of clients said that the assessment was discussed during the visit.

The gap between broad-spectrum parasite control (55% of practices discuss, 44% of clients recall) and internal parasite tests (performed by 54% of practices and remembered by 43% of clients), was not as wide but still significant.

 

You don’t appreciate me

 

Underappreciating services can have a bearing on whether clients will use a service and this was illustrated in The Opportunity results.

 

Staff members characterized the following canine services as important: pain assessment (94%), heartworm test (93%) and behavioral assessment (90%). Clients had a different view of the importance of these services: 80% rated pain assessment as important, 80% said the heartworm test is important and 71% indicated a behavioral assessment is important.

 

Closing the gap in your practice

 

The first step in closing the communication gap is to identify specific services that are typically addressed in a preventive healthcare exam and receive feedback from both staff and clients. The Opportunity tool is a great start. It can be downloaded from the Partners for Healthy Pets’ website and is easily administered.

 

The survey lists 10 services---11 for feline visits---and participants are invited to comment on whether these services were provided or discussed during an office visit. The difference in results can be used to identify the gaps in understanding, or areas in which the practice needs to direct its attention to educate clients. The number of areas that require further attention can range from none to 10.

 

Once gaps are identified, the Partners for Healthy Pets website contains communication modules with scripts and videos that practices can use to explain the importance of preventive care to their clients. Research shows that even a few words that draw the client in and clarify the purpose of the visit can help them understand how essential preventive care is to their pet.

 

For more information - check out the Partners for Healthy Pets Opportunity Tool.

 

 

 

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