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Communicate the need for preanesthetic testing
Preanesthetic testing helps protect your patients' health and decreases your practice's liability. Here's how to use a client consent form to educate pet owners about this medical service.
While you know that preanesthetic testing can help you identify pre-existing conditions and improve your patients' safety, your clients may not understand the need for such profiles. What's more, you could be liable if you don't inform clients of the risks associated with anesthesia. To overcome these challenges, Dr. Fred Metzger of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa., started using a client consent form for preanesthetic testing in 1996.
The form helps clients understand the purpose of the tests, likening them to tests a physician would run if the client were to undergo surgery. It outlines the three potential pet health screens patients could undergo, depending on the pet's age and health status. The form also explains how preanesthetic testing serves to establish baseline data for patients in case they become ill, says Dr. Metzger.
When Dr. Metzger, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, first started preanesthetic testing before anesthesia and surgery, he provided clients with the option to decline. Dr. Metzger says high-risk patients and geriatric animals were the most frequently tested patients. Since 1997, the practice requires preanesthetic testing before patients undergo anesthesia and surgery. He says only four clients in eight years have been upset about the protocol. The reason? Price, he says.
For clients who balk at the cost of the tests, Dr. Metzger doesn't flinch. "If clients refuse our preanesthetic protocol, I explain that we can't perform the procedure," he says. "If clients can't appreciate the benefits after we've explained them, our practice isn't a good fit for that client anyway. I don't worry about it; I want our practice team to put that energy into the clients who appreciate it."
Dr. Jim Irwin, owner of Sulphur Springs Veterinary Clinic in St. Louis is also a firm believer in mandatory preanesthetic testing. He believes optional testing may give clients the wrong message. "If you recommend testing but say you'll perform a procedure without it to save the client money, the pet owner is likely to think testing is less important," he says.
That's exactly the message these doctors don't want to send. And Dr. Metzger believes the profession as a whole is moving toward required testing. "Mandatory preanesthetic testing will become the standard of care," Dr. Metzger says. "You and your staff members need to explain the safety benefits to clients and review the tests with them when the patient goes home."
Dr. Metzger's current client consent form for anesthesia and surgery explains that there are risks and no guarantees regarding the results that may be achieved. The form also reminds clients to ask any questions before signing.
To get you started on developing a client consent form for your practice, the form we link to below provides a quick explanation of sample preanesthetic testing protocols, explains the risks involved with anesthesia and surgery, and requires a client signature. Use this sample as a jumping off point to simplify the client education process and acquire consent to proceed.