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Veterinary Forum March 2009 (Vol 26, No 3)

Doctor to Doctor — Form up for compliance

by Ronald E. Whitford, DVM

    It is well documented that excellent compliance can lead to a pet having the best chance for full recovery from a medical condition or surgery, as well as strengthening the bond between the client and the practice.

    To improve compliance, you must recognize the reasons for poor compliance, such as:

    • Lack of client awareness about medical conditions
    • Lack of client knowledge about the causes and treatments of common conditions
    • Client failure to understand the consequences of poor compliance
    • Client inability to medicate a pet properly
    • Client forgetfulness
    • Failure of the practice to follow up with clients

    Poor compliance can lead to client dissatisfaction, diminished client perception of the veterinary staff's competence and more frequent complaints about fees. Therefore, it is important that the practice communicate fully with the client — both verbally and with well-written home care instructions.

    Practices should create a general handout that has appropriate home care instructions highlighted or checked off, as well as a space for additional notes. This handout can include such instructions as how to monitor a wound for redness or give a pill.

    More comprehensive handouts can be developed for specific conditions or procedures, giving details about the procedure and abnormal conditions to watch out for.

    By offering specific handouts, many of the line-item instructions on the general handout can be eliminated.

    I also recommend including a note with the receipt stating, "Please read the home care information provided by your veterinary health care team." The same note also can be handed out on a separate sheet so the client does not have to search for the bill to check the instructions.

    Because every piece of material that goes home with the client can serve as a miniature billboard representing your practice, handouts that are used frequently should be printed professionally — and in some cases it may cost less money — at a local print shop rather than in the clinic.

    Many professional sources offer home care handouts, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Lifelearn, state veterinary associations and some veterinary schools. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) also offers a wealth of client education handouts on its website.

    Sometimes other veterinary clinics will post their own home care handouts online for veterinarians to use. Spend some time browsing the Internet to learn what some of your colleagues have to offer.

    If you create your own handouts, have the newest member of your staff read through them and explain what each instruction means. This can help ensure that your message is clear and effective. After all, the instructions may make perfect sense to you but be complicated to someone with little to no experience in animal health.

    For a few samples of effective at-home care forms, check out the Web Exclusives.

    NEXT: Editor's Note — Learning from our pets

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    These Care Guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions. They are formatted to print and give to your clients for their information.

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