Celebrate Normal Diagnostic Testing Results With Your Clients
When diagnostic testing comes back within normal limits, relaying the news to the client is a given. But instead of conveying the results in our regular, serious monotone, how can we celebrate this good news and, in doing so, demonstrate value to the client?
The Client's Perspective
First, I would challenge team members to sit on the other side of the exam table, so to speak. Most clients consider their pet part of the family, and they really want to do what is best. They don't always understand why we're recommending something other than routine shots or a heartworm test.
We must also remember that spending on pets is often discretionary income for people, and many folks do not have extra funds to throw around. Everyone on the team needs to be clear about why diagnostic testing is a worthwhile investment, and as a practice, respect the importance of celebrating good diagnostic results.
Get the Info and Give the Advice
So how can we help clients understand the need for healthy pet diagnostic testing? Work with your team to engage the clients in the appointment by prioritizing their input. Our teams often look at veterinary preventive care appointments as less critical than sick pet appointments and shortcut history-taking. Getting detailed information from the person who knows the pet best (Hint: It's not us) often leads to an easy recommendation for diagnostics. Make sure your teams are asking the right questions and clients may remember symptoms they have noted off and on over the past few months or realize they have seen some changes that cause concern. If a client doesn't have concerns, be a voice for the pet and provide client education materials that show how pets may have problems that are invisible. Making sure that your team members understand the scientific data and discuss recommendations comfortably will increase client buy-in on diagnostic testing.
The Value of Normal
In our role as a voice for the patient, we need to make sure that we celebrate normal results with clients. For example, imagine that a client with a six-year-old cat comes in for a preventive care visit. The team does a great job educating the client about the importance of early detection diagnostic testing. The client agrees and proceeds with the suggested testing.
When the results come back the next day, the client receives a monotone message on their voicemail that says, "This is Miranda from ABC Veterinary Practice. Your test results were all normal." The information has been conveyed, and that is the extent of the practice's post-appointment contact with the client.
Alternatively, imagine the same client were to receive this message instead: "Hello Ms. Smith, this is Dr. Shaw from ABC Veterinary Practice. I just wanted to let you know that Molly's test results came back and it's great news! You are taking really good care of her. All of the results were right where they need to be for a cat her age. Please keep it up, and let us know if you see any changes or have any concerns. Otherwise, we will see you next year for her preventive care and lab works. Great job!"
Which communication option do you think leaves a better lasting impression with the client? However, most of us do Scenario 1 and miss out on the opportunity to celebrate with clients, congratulate them on what they are doing right for their pet, and reinforce that it was important to do this testing. Also, note that in Scenario 2, the results were personalized to this client and her pet, demonstrating a vested interest in her pet's health and strengthening the relationship.
Seeing Is Believing
Let's really add some bang for the buck and send them a client-friendly summary of these lab results, so they can see some great charts and colors, further reinforcing value. Providing these results to clients has multiple benefits: It's a visual representation of the science behind what we do, and puts the results in an understandable context. The emailed results will stay with them longer than the memory of that phone message, and they may even "show them off" to others.
Clients are used to logging into their own human medical portal to view their own test results; in veterinary medicine, we have to keep up with the expectations that are fostered in human medicine.
Setting the Stage
Another crucial part of our Scenario 2 is that the doctor sets the stage for client expectations for bloodwork during next year's preventive care visit. This continues to reinforce the perception that diagnostic testing is part of preventive care, the client is making good choices for their pet, and that we will probably want to repeat the testing next year just to make sure the pet's internal health and organ function are still stable.
Another potential value of celebrating normal diagnostic results is to set the stage for expansion of care. We have had several clients in our practice who elected to have procedures (especially dentistry and minor "lumps and bumps" aspiration/removal) after having initially refused the recommendation. The normal diagnostic testing results celebration gave them confidence to move forward with the procedure because they wanted their healthy pet to have a better quality of life.
In the end, preventive care and early diagnostic testing is about longer and healthier lives for pets. This is a concept that veterinary teams should have no problem getting their heads and hearts wrapped around. Change is hard, but I encourage teams to jump in, and always keep in mind that celebrating "normal" is crucial for your clients and for your practice.