By far the best article I’ve read in 2022 on supporting patient health through better client communication and engagement, was a 3-part piece written by Dr. Wendy Hauser and published in Today’s Veterinary Business this spring and summer. (Dr. Hauser is founder of Peak Veterinary Consulting and a member of the Vet Partners organization of veterinary consultants.)
If you missed this series, you may want to take a look. (or, if you read the 3 pieces, it may be worth a re-read)
— Three C’s Forge Strong Bonds (#1)
— How to Create Lasting Connections (#2)
— How to Explain the Value and Cost of Proactive Care (#3)
Communication with clients about the importance of preventive care, makes a huge difference in the patient’s health… but, also in how connected the client feels to the practice.
Dr. Hauser outlines ways the full vet team can foster patient health by:
— Creating positive client experiences (using Culture, Communication and Consistency) and
— Actively supporting the bond owners feel with their pets.
She focuses on communicate the value of proactive care, so that clients feel more informed and more engaged with the practice team and the health of their pet.
When clients feel a strong connection with the practice and a shared commitment to their pet’s well-being, they are more likely to accept the recommendation of the vet and staff. The result is healthier patients.
Dr. Hauser continues her lifelong commitment to using client communication to foster patient health! Engaging and informing clients about the value of proactive care, as she recommends, is important not only in-clinic, but also between visits, with reminder and portal/app communication.
One of the most influential resources in the industry for promoting the preventive care of patients is the series of guides on Preventive Care published by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), in conjunction with IDEXX.
Each Preventive Care booklet has been a collection of articles from veterinarians and practice managers outline how to implement, expand and promote preventive care services, and the value of doing so.
One key piece of guidance is to fully inform and reinforce with clients the importance and value of preventive care… in vet and team communication, protocols and support materials.
Historically practices have developed and implemented preventive care protocols and plans and then communicated those protocols and plans through the services they offer and recommend to clients in-clinic and on their website. Some practices reinforce various aspects of preventive care in their in-clinic and website client education materials.
But, another untapped way to let clients know what your preventive care standards are is to incorporate them into your pet portal/app, so that clients know what you recommend as essential/advised preventive care. Some of the new portals/apps have this capability. You can then show what vaccines/services each pet has been set up for and what preventive care needs to be added. In this way you are actively promoting preventive care continuously, between visits.
The clear consensus from numerous experts is that getting the full team onboard with key communication skills has a very strong and positive impact on client happiness and patient compliance and health! Here are some of the most helpful insights.
- It’s About Time, The Client’s Perspective and The Power of a Question — Dr Amanda Donnelly.
Dr. Donnelly is a veterinary client communication consultant and member of Vet Partners organization of veterinary consultants. For years she has guided hospitals, clinics and groups on practice team management and using client communication to boost pet preventive care.
- Communication Strategies to Save Time, Support Teams, and Provide Better Care — Des Whittall.
Des is owner of 2 veterinary clinics in Texas and a frequent contributor to Practice Life. He continually provides very practical insights on practice and team management
- The Secret to Happy Clients — AVMA Veterinary Economics Division Staff.
AVMA survey results show that clients place a high priority on perceived value. Their guidance is that communication choices and skills matter the most in promoting client satisfaction and adherence for optimal patient health.
- 9 Communication Tips to Gain Client Compliance — Sarah Rumple.
Sarah is an award winning veterinary writer and editor for the AAHA and various publications on veterinary management issues and client communication. Here she identifies specific ways to boost client adoption of vet recommendations for patient health.
- Client Communication in a Post-Trust Era Requires a New Perspective –AVMA Melinda Larkin.
The AVMA presents insights from Michael Maslansky on ways communication styles and messaging can shape whether clients trust and accept the guidance they receive from vets about their pets health.
- Interactive Training Teaches Dos and Don’ts of Client Communication — AVMA.
The AVMA provides practical training specifically on the Language of Veterinary Care, that helps veterinary teams be more successful in improving compliance and enhancing patient health.
- Words Matter and Engaging Your Team — Partners for Healthy Pets (resources toolbox).
Established, industry-supported guidance on boosting the effectiveness of team client communication for promoting patient health.
Informing and communicating with clients about the importance and value of preventive care recommendation has a large influence on better patient health outcomes. It starts from the face-to-face communication of the entire vet team. And, this critical messaging is reinforced by emphasizing the importance of preventive care in the between-visit communication.
Many veterinary experts emphasize that Preventive Care of pet patients is most effective when there is a concerted team effort. When all the team believes in the importance of preventive care protocols and communicate this to clients, then clients are far more likely to get the message and buy-in to preventive recommendations. (In addition, they are more likely to perceive that the practice cares about, and is fully committed to, the health of their pets.)
The consensus view is patient health is improved with a consistent and ongoing communication with clients about the importance of preventive care. Face-to-face interactions with vets and the full vet team is the foundation. But, communication before, after and between visits is a critical way to reinforce this messaging and build client commitment.
There are many places and ways experts point to, for providing clients with information about the preventive care of their pets: crucial brief in-clinic conversations, posters/handouts, on the website, social media and now in the portal/app.
- A Group Effort–Improving Client Education & Compliance — Dr. Amanda Donnelly.
Dr. Donnelly, veterinary client communications expert and VetPartners consulting organization member, advises that client education and patient preventive-care engagement begin with in-clinic interactions, management and training. As she says: “Don’t assume what clients know”. She then outlines steps for staff training and alignment around preventive health.
- Educate Your Clients on the Value of Preventive Care Diagnostics — Sandy Walsh, RVT, CVPM.
Sandy is a practice management consultant and VHMA and VetPartners consulting organization member. She asserts that interaction with the client from first visit through each follow-up is the best way to educate/inform the client about preventive care and emphasize the importance of preventive care for the health of the owners pet(s). But, Sandy also how you can continue and reinforce the preventive-care education conversation… on the website, the practice portal/app and in social media.
- Client Education: a Vital Role for Veterinary Technicians — Penn Foster Blog (Emma Rose Gallimore).
Another commentary pointing to the importance of involving veterinary technicians (and we would add, other members of the vet staff) in educating clients about important preventive care for their pet(s).
- 3 Pointers for Parasite Prevention Education and Broaching Parasite Preventives with Clients — Beckie Mossor, RVT, Julia Burke Assistant Editor DVM 360.
Ms Mossor also focuses on in-clinic client education, briefly discussing how important it is to try to understand the client’s mindset and knowledge, before deciding what preventive health guidance to offer.
- DVM360 Toolkits: e.g. DVM360 Toolkit for Heartworm Disease, and DVM360 Vaccines Toolkit.
For selected client education topics, DVM360 has put together toolkits that help train staff with communication tactics for discussing key preventive care topics with clients. They also include handouts and social media post messaging that the practice can use.
- Client Education Materials — AVMA and Steal These Veterinary Client Handouts! — DVM360.
There are many sources that promote preventive care client education through the use of handouts and posters in-clinic. AVMA and DVM360 are just 2. LIfeLearn and VIN are 2 other subscription services that include handouts and website content covering preventive care topics.
- 5 Ways to Ramp Up Your Veterinary Practice’s Client Education Game — VetSource Blog; and, Client Education Through Online Videos or Online Classes — MWI Blog (Roxanne Hawn)
But, as these commentators suggest, client education can and should be readily available beyond the clinic. Websites are clearly the most common place to make client education available to clients. (videos are an increasing popular way to engage clients and help them understand the preventive care of their pets)
While In-clinic education, by your full vet team, is the main point for client education. The in-clinic time is often limited. Website-base preventive care education is an important way to provide on-demand access to information about various preventive care topics.
Now you can incorporate client education as part of many pet portals/apps. It can be most relevant and impactful if you can tell clients what your Standard of Preventive Care vaccines and services are, in your pet portal/app. This lets them (a) see which of your recommended preventive care has been set up for each of their pets, and what preventive care should/might be added, and (b) lets them get answers, right at that point, about why each of your recommended vaccines, tests and services are important to the health of their pet.
Compliance, obviously, directly impacts patient health. But, while there is consensus on communicating the importance of preventive care, suggestions vary on the best ways to promote patient vaccine and service compliance.
Two keys are mentioned most: (1) provide the client with full information, so they know what vaccines and services are recommended and when they are due, and (2) make sure members of the vet team are in alignment in communicating the value of preventive services for the health of patients… so clients come back in to get the vaccines and services recommended.
- 6 Tools That Improve Client Compliance in 2022 — Dr. Kate Boatright.
Dr. Boatright recommends engaging clients between visits with a practice app/portal, so that clients are more informed about upcoming vaccines and services. She also recommends forward booking, Med auto-ship programs and longer acting medications to get patients the care needed. She suggests considering telemedicine to supplement/expand patient care access, and pet insurance (we would add wellness plans) to lower financial barriers to care compliance.
(note: Dr. Boatright is one of the leading advocates for Spectrum of Care initiatives, to lower the financial barriers to veterinary patient care. See recent AAHA articles from Oct 22 and Nov 22)
- Seven Strategies to Improve Vaccine Compliance — Wendy Myers.
Wendy is founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians a communication training firm. She recommends (a) providing 5 reminders to make sure the client books, (b) telling clients about the vaccines/services recommended during booking, (c) previewing vaccines/services to be done at the start of the visit, and (d) having the vet reinforce the value of protocols during the exam.
- Training Your Team to Help with Client Compliance — Des Whittall.
Des, in his usual practical approach, points to 3 key reasons clients don’t comply: (1) Lack of understanding — simplify and focus the explanation of recommendations, (2) Lack of trust — get all team members clear on consistent prevention protocol messages they use with clients, (3) Perceived lack of value — make sure the client understanding how the vaccine/service directly affects the patients health. The key element, Des says, is training the vet team so they are confident in communicating with clients, because they have knowledge and practice discussing preventive care and the importance of compliance.
- How to Increase Compliance of Pet Owners: Understanding the Human-Animal Bond — Marshall Liger.
Marshall is the hospital administrator (CVPM) for 3 practices in South Carolina and the founder of Liger Veterinary Consulting. He outlines 4 tips to improve pet owner communication and compliance, based on the recent study from the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), that shows the more connected the pet owner feels to their pet and to the practice/staff, the more likely they are to follow the vet’s health recommendations. (1) know which pet owners are most engaged with their pets health (and foster engagement of all clients), (2) train the vet team to engage the owner on the importance of pet health, (3) assess how well the practice is communicating the importance of preventive health compliance to clients, and (4) track compliance improvement for preventives, vaccines, dental and diagnostics.
- 7 Simple Ways to Increase Client Compliance — TeleVet Blog.
Practical steps to promote compliance focused around clear communication of information with clients, that is proactive and easily accessible.
- 5 Ways to Improve Veterinary Client Compliance — Mixlab Blog.
Another list advocating simple, clear communication of information. They recommend leveraging of portal/app technology to engage clients between visits.
The most crucial element of encouraging clients to get the vaccines, tests and services their pet needs, is clear communication of information about what is needed and why it’s important to keep their pet healthy. This takes place in-clinic with face-to-face interaction with the staff and the vet. But, it also can be reinforced before, after and between visits with easy, preventive-care-focused communication in reminders and the pet portal/app. (e.g. getting client’s attention )
There are many views about the best way to boost compliance with a combination of reminders, what reminders, how many, what timing, apps/portals, whether to include forward booking, appointment confirmations, online scheduling. The best client communication system is the one each practice can customize for their particular communication preferences, and the one that clearly tracks your patients’ compliance and your practice performance.
There are many voices in the veterinary industry with key experience and insights about how to best promote patient preventive care health with client communication.
Many are members of the Vet Partners veterinary consultants organization. (including Wendy Hauser, Amanda Donnelly, Peter Weinstein, Debbie Boone, Sarah Rumple, Sandy Walsh, just to mention a few.) Others are practice owners, veterinarians or practice managers who have very practical observations and suggestions from their experience.
They continue to provide insights from a range of preventive health and client communication topics… but, all focused on how practices can foster healthier pet patients.
We invite you to tap into this selection of insights from industry experts as you improve patient health in your practice.