Communication in Veterinary Medicine: Three Ways to Get The Client to Say Yes
Whilst clients often want the best for their pets, they don’t always know what’s best for them.
As veterinary professionals, it can be difficult to navigate situations where clients are reluctant to take medical advice. Miscommunications often lead to disagreements in the clinic, which can become frustrating when the wellbeing of an animal is at stake.
However, when it comes to communication in veterinary medicine, there is an art to client compliance.
In this guest post, Dr. Boaz Man explains how to effectively communicate with pet parents in three easy steps.
To learn more about client communication, click below.
‘The bill is what the pet parents pay, the value is what the pet parent gets’- Dr. Boaz
One of the biggest barriers to effective patient care is value realization. If a client doesn’t recognize the benefits of treatment, they are not likely to comply with veterinary care.
The language used with clients during consultations can make a world of difference when it comes to value comprehension. Whilst many young vets may discuss patient plans in terms of ‘estimates’ or ‘recommendations’, Dr. Boaz advises against this.
‘An estimate should be reserved for a car that can be replaced, not a pet’ he says.
‘This is a pet somebody loves, they have come to you because you are the expert’.
Dr. Boaz suggests that vets should refer to recommendations in terms of treatment plans instead. This not only sounds more professional but also encourages young vets to have confidence in their medical judgments and be more assertive about recommendations.
‘Recommendations are soft ways of saying let’s go ahead and try this for now. This is a NEED’.
Intentionally framing veterinary care like this therefore can be a fantastic way of helping clients realize the value of care.
Want to learn about how to deal with ‘bad’ clients? Click here.
Present What the Pet Needs
If a client doesn’t understand the need for treatment, they are far less likely to comply.
In Dr. Boaz’s experience, veterinary graduates who don’t convey clearly why certain treatments are needed will find it difficult to convince clients likewise. He implores professionals struggling to get clients on board with treatment plans to therefore go through the ramifications of inaction.
Highlighting the possible outcomes of not treating or diagnosing a pet can help owners realize the real-world implications of opting out of treatment.
An example of this can be seen when looking at one of Dr. Boaz’s previous cases.
Zoey, a young kitten struggling with defecation, had been brought to the clinic for a checkup. Although the client was initially reluctant, Boaz and his team explicitly explained to the client the purpose of the proposed procedures (including blood work, X-rays, etc) so Zoey’s parents understood exactly what was going on.
By doing so, the team managed to convince Zoey’s parents to go through with the procedures, which led to the discovery of an abnormal kidney. If the team hadn’t convinced the client, this would have been highly detrimental to both her and her pet.
Want to learn how vets can make every client their best client? Click here.
Think Like a Vet, Speak Like a Human
‘Everyone hears only what he understands’- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Whilst communication in veterinary medicine oftentimes can become tricky, Dr. Boaz highlights the importance of using non-clinical language with clients.
Within his clinic, he has found that clients who don’t understand (in real terms) what’s going on are far less likely to accept recommendations. These findings have similarly been found in veterinary research – one study noting that clients were seven times as likely to adhere to veterinary recommendations when they were conveyed explicitly1.
Further research has observed that partnership-centered and empathetic communication dramatically decreases pet owners’ needs for additional information beyond their veterinary healthcare provider (such as from the internet etc). And that addressing client’s concerns and worries alongside addressing the pros and cons of diagnostic and therapeutic options all improved customer compliance2.
Taking a people centric approach therefore can be very effective during consultations, improving communication in veterinary medicine.
For more tips on client communication, click here.
1-‘Effect of veterinarian-client-patient interactions on client adherence ….’ 26 Oct. 2020, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221809501_Effect_of_veterinarian-client-patient_interactions_on_client_adherence_to_dentistry_and_surgery_recommendations_in_companion-animal_practice. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.
2- ‘Being Nice Is Not Enough-Exploring Relationship-Centered ….’ 28 Feb. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6403131/. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.