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Maximize Your Veterinary Visit

Strategies to Make the Most of Your Veterinary Visit

  • Prepare for your veterinary visits by observing your pet as closely as you can.
  • Take your pet to the visit yourself, and if you can’t, be available by phone to answer questions.
  • Share your observations with the veterinary team.  85% of a medical diagnosis comes from the history and descriptions of what has happened.
  • Showing up at the doctor’s office without information means the veterinarian will have to perform many more diagnostic tests and your costs will increase possibly by hundreds of dollars.
  • Participate cooperatively with the doctor in deciding your pet’s future.  You are essential to your pet’s well-being in more ways than you can imagine!

Pick a Vet Who Encourages Cooperative Decision Making

A pet parent that appreciates a conversational, cooperative style of decision-making, in which the veterinarian gives you some time to talk and values your input will appreciate coaching very much.  Some people still prefer an authoritative doctor who tells you like it is and does not have much time for questions, but most people in this day and age do not.

Be sure your pet’s general practitioner lets you talk!  Research shows that if a patient is left to talk uninterrupted about their issues, they will stop after 2 minutes.  Just 2 minutes to pour out your heart!  And the diagnosis was found in that 2 minutes over 75% of the time!

Coaching just before a doctor visit reduces stress and improves results

Coaching medical patients just prior to their doctor visit increased positive results, increased compliance, and lowered stress hormone levels!

Doc Truli explains, “Compliance is a fancy management word for ‘doing what you are told.’  I’ve expanded the term to mean, ‘following through on the health plan at home.’  It is a subtle, but important distinction.  If you do not understand why your pet needs a special diet, or pills, or a medicated bath, how can you be expected to whole-heartedly go through the motions and make sure the treatment gets done?  Your veterinary team needs to teach you why and how to do the treatments that need to be done.”

Research into physician-patient interactions has shown that having checklists of relevent items to prepare before a doctor visit, and having Coaching before your visit, increases patient satisfaction with the visit and decreases stress more than many other strategies studied like greater physician communication training.  It stands to reason the same is true of visits to the veterinarian.

“Patients need to have the courage and confidence to ask questions,” said Sherrie Kaplan, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine. “Many patients don’t want to look stupid. Studies have shown that even doctors find that when they are patients, they don’t want to ask questions that will make them look stupid.”

Doctors can underestimate their patients’ information needs for a variety of reasons, according to the review authors. When treating patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses, doctors might be reluctant to dispense information that they feel could be harmful or disturbing. Alternatively, they sometimes focus so hard on confirming a diagnosis that they do not take the time to encourage patient involvement in constructing more individualized treatment approaches.

“Doctors are prepared to ask questions, to formulate what’s wrong, find it and fix it,” Kaplan said. “In studies we’ve done, the patient will talk for about 30 seconds before the doctor interrupts with more questions and takes over.” Ref 1

Coaching works!  When doctors were given advanced communication training, patients were called after a visit for follow-up, or patients were given a briefing days before their visit, none of these strategies lowered stress or increased understanding between the doctor and the patient.

How to Get the Most out of Veterinary Visits:

  • Observe your pet closely, especially anything coming out of, or going into the pet (food, water, urination, defecation, vomit, energy, etc)
  • Complete a pre-visit checklist
  • Hire a veterinarian to coach you before the visit, or choose a veterinarian with a coaching style of cooperative decision-making
  • Only work with a veterinary team (receptionists, customer care representatives, nurses, and doctors) who allow you to speak your mind!
  • Politely bow out and seek another veterinarian if you are not comfortable.

Ref 1 Center for the Advancement of Health. “Coaching For Doctor Office Visits Helps Patients Ask Right Questions.” ScienceDaily 20 July 2007. 19 September 2009 <http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/07/070719130634.htm>.

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