Client education on limited time


You're pressed for time, but don't shortchange clients by skipping out on educational opportunities.

EVERY MINUTE COUNTS DURING A WELLNESS EXAM. And when you give clients only six to 10 minutes of your time, as 38 percent of you do, according to the 2006 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Study, you need to cover a lot of ground in just a little time. Luckily, you aren't the only ones educating pet owners. Forty-six percent of practices report team members dedicate an average of 11 to 20 minutes to the wellness exam. (See Figure 1 below.) This means your team members are in prime position to talk to clients about wellness topics—and they do.

Figure 1

Tapping your team

Staff members responding to a May 2005 survey report routinely discussing wellness topics with clients, including vaccination protocols, heartworm prevention, intestinal parasite concerns, and nutrition. (See Figure 3 for the full list.) That's good news, especially given that veterinarians spend less total time in the exam room than their staff members do.

Yet veterinarians still say they spend more time on client education than team members in every category except heartworm prevention. Granted, doctors report spending only slightly more time than staff members on vaccination protocols, FeLV/FIV testing, and intestinal parasite concerns. (See Figure 2 for more.)

Figure 3

Still, the results beg the question: Could you be tapping team members more? For example, two-thirds of veterinarians responding report spending more time than anyone else on their teams talking about nutrition and dental hygiene. Is this the best use of your time?

Relying on educational tools

Of course, during a typical wellness exam you and your team members give clients information on a plethora of wellness topics. And using a range of communication tools can help them retain more of your message. Ninety-five percent of respondents to the 2006 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Study use handouts to help educate clients; another 68 percent use posters in the reception area.

Figure 2

You might also consider using high-tech tools, such as a practice Web site, to disseminate information. Give clients your Web address on handouts or your business card, and direct them to educational materials that you approve online. According to the study, only 40 percent of you currently do this, which means there's opportunity here.

Videos could also round out your approach to education. Today, only 39 percent of respondents use videos in the exam room, the waiting area, or to send home with clients. (See Figure 4 below for more.)

The bottom line: Your time with clients is limited, so you need to make the most of every minute. According to data from NCVEI in 2005, the average total length of a wellness exam with vaccinations is roughly 20 minutes. And during a visit, you're examining, diagnosing, treating, prescribing—and educating. Tap your team members and educational tools to get the job done efficiently.

Figure 4

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