Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Avoid trivializing a pet’s exam with incomplete medical reports

Medical reports are one of, if not THE most important piece of communication that pet owners receive from a practice. This report has the ability to do many things, including:

  • Raise client awareness about potential health issues
  • Demonstrate the thoroughness (i.e., VALUE) of the exam
  • Identify health concerns / areas that need to be monitored
  • Help make the client a PARTNER in their pet’s care
  • Overall, help clients to become better pet parents

A recent example from one practice was a single sheet of paper that listed a dozen or so areas of the pet’s examination including heart, kidneys, ears, eyes and others.

There was a space beside each of these and in it, was hand written a single word. In this case, “normal.”

There are several problems with this approach.

First of all, it trivializes the pet exam.  If the annual or bi-annual exam is as important as veterinarians say it is, it must be made to look important.  Remember this sheet of paper is all he client walks away with. For them it IS the exam.  Boost the perceived value of the exam by providing specifics.  This means more than a “normal” / “abnormal” response, but instead provide a report that includes:

  • Specifics as to what the veterinarian observed
  • Additional testing that may be recommended (see second point below).
  • What a particular pet might be prone to given age, breed or lifestyle
  • Explanations as to what the different elements of the exam – and related diagnostics -- look at / look for

Second, in this case, the exam report was not accurate.  The first item on the list was”heart.”  I asked the practice if they had done an echo on the pet.  They said, “no.”  Then how could “normal” be the definitive answer?  Use the exam report to introduce and educate pet owners about the possible need for additional diagnostics. Let them see that, in some cases, definitive answers are impossible without them.  This is especially true for pets who at risk or vulnerable to certain diseases due to heredity, age, breed or lifestyle.   

Third, the typical  medical report only identifies the pet’s health on the day of the exam.  True pet wellness care is not practiced at the time of the annual or bi-annual exam.  It’s practiced ALL YEAR with the pet owner as the veterinarian's partner.  Use the medical exam to not only report on the pet’s status on the date of the exam, but to EQUIP pet owners to become an active participant in their pet’s year-long care.  Do this by identifying what the pet owner can do to keep his/her pet healthy with information on :

  • What to watch out for
  • Their pet’s vulnerabilities
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Activity and exercise

Today, many pet owners are bypassing veterinary exams and instead relying on the Internet and their local pet supplies retailers for pet care advice.    Clients need to be convinced that the veterinary exam is worth the money. If the medical report is viewed as being trivial, so might the exam.