How Veterinary Team Alignment Can Strengthen Preventive Care Protocols

Have you ever tried to convince someone of something you didn't fully believe or understand yourself? How successful was that? It's important for the entire veterinary team to understand and believe the value of preventive care in order to have effective communication with pet owners.

It helps for you, as the manager, and the veterinary team to understand what gets pet owners to accept and act on veterinary practice recommendations. This includes when they:

  • Understand why it is being recommended

  • See the benefit for their pet

  • Trust the knowledge and education of the veterinary team

  • Have the financial ability to follow through with it

The first three reasons are a direct result of good team alignment. When your veterinary team is aligned, you can increase the understanding of protocols for both pet owners and team members.

Reinforcing the Importance of Preventive Care for Pets

The most important service your team provides is education. You know what's in the pet's best interest with regard to preventive care, but you are not the decision-maker; the pet owner is. It is up to every member of the team to educate and support the recommendation. In order to do that, they must fully understand it.

Are you recommending something based on age or area risks? What kind of benefit will the pet receive? How can it maximize the pet's life? What is the risk if the recommendation is declined? Each team member should understand and be able to discuss and answer these questions within their scope. A receptionist, for example, will not have as in-depth an answer as the veterinarian, but they still have a role to play.

Practice managers have to ensure the team is educated and ready to have these discussions. There are many educational options available for teams, ranging from doctors and company representatives to online programs. Some even incorporate interactive elements, so team members can ask questions to make sure they fully understand.

Discussing how the recommendations fit into your specific practice protocols and standards of care is important, and team members should be able to explain that. Some practices use specific scripts. Others prefer team members to turn the script into their own words, so it sounds more natural and honest. Once the teams understand the "why," you have to figure out the "who."

Communicating Messages Broadly and Effectively

There's an adage in marketing called "The Rule of Seven," which states that a person must hear a message seven times before procuring a product or service. There are disagreements about this exact number, but the point is that explaining preventive care once or twice isn't enough. You aren't going to say the same sentence seven times during their visit. Instead, you need to find different ways to convey the message using team alignment and media.

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From phone calls to checkout, there are several opportunities with the pet owner to effectively communicate and educate. The veterinarian will be the main educator, but the teams need to support those recommendations. Allow the pet owner to ask questions without judgment or pressure. The goal is to build a trusting relationship using kindness and confidence. Be aware that you can damage the relationship with over-communication or judgment.

The message can be shared with technology, as well. Social media, newsletters, on-hold messages, and exam room videos are passive ways to reinforce the message. Discuss with your veterinary team to find out what works best. Involve them in deciding who says what and when, and they will become more invested.

Doing Your Due Diligence for Pet Wellness

Even when all is done well, there will still be times when care is out of the pet owner's budget. It is possible that, despite your best efforts, they still decline. The important thing is they were made aware and educated about their options. Establish goals for compliance or utilization, monitor compliance rates and adjust the protocol as needed. Lastly, share compliance rates with the team, so they can see their efforts truly matter and consider offering your team incentives for growth. In the end, both your team and your clients will be better for it.

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Meg Oliver

Meg Oliver is a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager in New York with over 26 years experience in veterinary medicine. She manages a four doctor practice and writes for several veterinary publications. In her free time, she enjoys time with her husband, daughter and twin boys.

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