How Effectively Sharing Preventive Care Test Results Builds Veterinary Client Relationships

Veterinarians are scientists, detectives, counselors, and educators all in one. These roles all come into play when we receive abnormal blood work for a patient. We interpret the lab values, narrow in on a diagnosis, empathetically deliver the results, and then educate the client on the disease course, treatment, and prognosis.

However, some veterinarians find it more challenging to deliver routine screening test results when the blood work comes back normal. But by focusing on preventive care, and clearly and passionately communicating the value of baselines and normal results to clients, we can build stronger and more loyal veterinary-client-patient relationships. This allows us to keep the lines of communication open as we discuss the ongoing journey of our patients with their owners.

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The Powerful Human-Animal Bond

How can we strengthen and preserve the veterinary-client-patient relationship? We first need to recognize the powerful human-animal bond. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute recently looked at 16,140 dog and cat owners, and 1,207 small animal veterinarians from around the world. Survey questions around attachment, humanization, commitment, and integration were asked, and the cumulative responses created what has been labeled as the HABSCORE.

In the U.S., the average HABSCORE was 59.1 out of 70, with 87% of pet owners reporting they had experienced benefits from their pets. The human-animal bond is strong and tremendously valued, and pet owners who experience this bond with their pets are more likely to authorize wellness and preventive care recommendations. When we can perform these tests and normal results are found, veterinary teams can help pet owners feel empowered for making good choices, strengthening the veterinary-client-patient connection.

How to Talk to Veterinary Clients

It's not enough for us to simply commit to a preventive care mindset. We also need to think critically about how we can efficiently and effectively deliver test results in ways that encourage discussion and active client participation. Historically, veterinarians have communicated one-directionally, where recommendations were received more like "orders" that pet owners were just expected to accept and follow. However, the climate and demographics of today's pet owners demanded change.

Now, successful communication in the exam room looks two-directional with a veterinary team member introducing a recommendation, and inviting discussion and active decision-making that helps meet the pet owner's goals. This strategy is critical when we think about how we educate and recommend routine screening and wellness testing. When pet owners describe their goals of having a healthy and happy pet for as long as possible, it opens the door for the veterinary team to educate on how helpful establishing a baseline can be, as well as how prevention is considered the best medicine. When we share routine test results, clearly identifying the value of normal results, especially that normal results rule out many diseases, it builds a loyal and more trusting client relationship with the veterinary team.

Personalizing Test Result Communication

Another helpful component of delivering the value of normal wellness and routine screening tests involves understanding how pet owners receive information. In today's environment, staff shortages and inefficient workflows often lead veterinary hospitals to call pet owners with normal results quickly, without personalization or reinforcement that wellness testing was a good decision.

Instead, make sure that the call-back message is personalized to the patient and pet owner, and compliments the pet owner for moving forward with preventive care. Note that simple vocal delivery of test results as a voicemail isn't as powerful as showing a visual representation of the science itself. Not only do many practice information management systems have client-friendly summaries that can be emailed or texted to the pet owner, but there are also options for pet owners to log in to a portal or app to review results.

Putting Relationships First

Pet owners who understand the value of preventive care are more grateful, compliant, and invested in a long life for their family member. We can help engaged pet owners reach their goals through effective communication of the value of a preventive care mindset that empowers routine and wellness testing.

Natalie L. Marks

Dr. Marks is a veterinarian, previous veterinary hospital owner, consultant, media expert, national and international educator, and angel investor with over 20 years experience. She is a passionate communicator within multiple media formats, such as industry magazines and national conferences. She has won many industry awards, including the Dr. Erwin Small First Decade Award, given to the veterinarian who has contributed the most to organized veterinary medicine in his or her first decade of practice. Other notable awards that she has received are Petplan’s nationally recognized Veterinarian of the Year (2012), America’s Favorite Veterinarian by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (2015), and Nobivac’s Veterinarian of the Year for her work on canine influenza (2017). The views and opinions in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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